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Cornell University Library 

A waif's progress. 

3 1924 013 441 435 

Cornell University 

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Goodbye, Sweetheart! 

Scylla or Charybdis ? 

Cometh up as a Flower. 

Mrs. Bllgh. 


Second Thoughts. 


A Beginner. 

Dr. Cupid. 

Dear Faustina. 

Not Wisely but Too Well. 


Red as a Rose is She. 

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A waif's progress 


" Well ? " she asked. 

From the other end of the breakfast- table he 
returned — " Well ? " and for several minutes this 
exchange of monosyllables seemed going to be the 
end — it was not quite the beginning — of the con- 
versation that had sprung from a letter, and to the 
perusal or reperusal of that letter Mrs. Tancred 
had returned. 

" Here is another instance of Felicity's talent 
for laying her cuckoo's egg in other people's 
nests ! " she said presently with a dryish smile. 
" There never was a woman who did more good 
— by proxy — than your sister." 

Mr. Tancred gave as much acquiescence as 
lay in silence to his wife's indictment. If you 
are credited with having married a woman for her 
money, and can never for one whole minute forget 
it, you must acquiesce in many statements from 
which you differ far more widely than he did 
from the one in question. 

e I B 

\y J.XXX- k_/ J. xA.v^ vj jL^j.^i-'k. 

" Why cannot she keep the girl herself ? " 

" Because Tom has put his foot down." 

This time both smiled ; laughed out, indeed. 

" That convenient foot ! " 

" It does not usually come down very heavily 
upon a pretty woman." 

" Who says that she is pretty ? " — with a touch 
of quickness. 

" I thought you did, or Felicity — or — some 

" I do not think that there is any allusion to 
her personal appearance. Now, what has become 
of my spectacles ? " — embarking on that exasperat- 
ing chronic chase which becomes in time the only 
species of sport left open to the elderly. 

" I believe that you can see perfectly well 
without them," rejoined he, always irritated by 
anything that emphasized the fifteen years of 
disparity in age between them. " What was the 
use of my giving you those tortoise-shell eye- 
glasses, if you never use them .'' " 

" Silly, affected things ! " replied she, un- 
graciously, yet with a something of contradictory 
kindness in her eye ; and at the same moment 
discovering her missing spectacles, unaccountably 
astride upon her own high well-bared brow, she 
searched for, found, and read aloud the following 
sentences — 

" ' You remember my old acquaintance, Lady 
Ransome ? ' " 

" Was that the woman who drank eye-wash 
and methylated spirit if she could not get anything 
else to quench her thirst ? " 

" She did it once too often. Do not interrupt 

" ' You remember my old acquaintance, Lady 
Ransome ? She died under rather disastrous 
circumstances three months ago.' " 

" Methylated spirits ? " he threw in, disobedient 
to his wife's hest, and she avenged herself by 
beginning all over again. 

" ' You remember my old acquaintance. Lady 
Ransome ? She died under rather disastrous cir- 
cumstances three months ago. I had done what I 
could for her, but it was one of those hopelessly 
inveterate cases of degradation for which no 
human aid is of any avail ; and she died in a very 
distressing way last August. Tom went to the 

" I remember hearing that he was the only 
person who did, besides the two sham widowers 
who followed her in crape and weepers to Kensal 
Green." The interruption this time emanated 
from the reader herself. 

" ' Tom went to the funeral, and came back 
full of pity for the girl whom I believe to be 
really Lord Ransome's daughter. We may as 
well give her the benefit of the doubt, at all 
events, though his — Lord Ransome's — family 
decline to believe it, and refuse to do any- 
thing for her in consequence. As her family 
repudiated Claire ' " 

" Who is Claire .? " 

" Why, the girl, of course ! No, it is not. I 
see further down that the girl is Bonnybell. Claire 
must be the mother. 


" ' As her family repudiated Claire when first 
she took to evil courses, the poor child has not 
a relation in the world to turn to, nor a roof 
to cover her. At the present moment she is with 
us, and as far as I am concerned might remain 
so indefinitely ; but, then, Tom put his foot 
down.' " 

Again one of the Tancred couple smiled with 
rich amusement. 

" ' Under the circumstances it has struck me — 
I throw out the suggestion for what it is worth — 
thdit you might like to have her as an inmate, at 
all events for a while.' " 

« We .? " 

" Yes, that is Felicity all over ! But let me 

" ' She is as gay as a lark ' (^gay as a lark, 
when her mother died three months ago ! ) " 

" Died of drink ! " amended he, with that sense 
of justice which is always more inherent in man 
than woman. 

" ' Gay as a lark ' (dear feeling little thing ! ), 
'and I thought, and think — indeed, it is one of 
my chief motives for making the proposal ' 
(ahem !), ' that the presence of a bright young 
creature would bring a great accession of cheerful- 
ness into both your lives.' " 

"Are we so uncheerful .? " asked the man, in 
a tone whose vexation was coloured with mis- 

" A childless home is never very merry," 
replied his wife, shortly. 

Tancred's eyes dropped to the object upon 


which his hand was already resting, the head of 
the wire-haired fox-terrier, whom his mistress 
spoilt most, but who liked his master best. The 
husband had long ceased to wince outwardly, 
though never inwardly, when one of the two 
great " raws " of his life was touched. He had 
married Camilla, and he had not given her the 
children for whom she hungered in that passionate 
greed, only increased by years and improbabilities, 
with which some women crave for offspring. And 
now they had been married for fifteen winters, and 
Camilla was fifty years old. 

" You see that I was right ; there is no allu- 
sion to her personal appearance." 

" No, it was my stupid mistake." 

"Though she is 'as gay as a lark,'" — hark- 
ing back rather grimly to the phrase that had 
displeased her — " she may also be as ugly as 

He thought it unlikely, but did not say so. 

" Bonnybell ! " continued she, derisively. 
" "What a cruelly ironical name to inflict^-' Bonne 
et belle ' — when she is probably neither the one. 
nor the other ! " 

"Let us hope for the worst, at all events," 
said he, gently caustic. 

" Bonnybell ! She was probably named after 
one of the two sham widowers' racehorses." 

" I thought you calculated that she dated from 
the pre-widower period." 

"Ay, so she must have done. Then she was 
named after one of Lord Ransome's hounds. If 
you remember, he kept the Mudshire for several 


years before a barbed-wire fence broke his worth- 
less neck for him." 

Tancred had known Lord Ransome a litde ; 
and the question crossed his mind as to whether 
it was worth while saying that his neck was not 
more valueless than his neighbours'. He decided 
that it was not. If you possess a wife with very 
decided opinions and a very trenchant mode of 
expressing them, why not let her enjoy them in 
peace .'' You may, at least, make her these trifling 
amends for the irreparable injury you have done 

" If we refuse the girl," he began slowly, after 
an interval spent in cogitation by two of the party, 
and in mufiled remonstrances at the unusual delay 
in brewing his slopbasin of weak tea on the part 
of the third — " if we refuse the girl, what is the 
alternative ? " 

"None, apparently, but the streets." 

" Poor little devil ! " 

" I do not think that that consideration need 
sway us ! " retorted she. " If we let ourselves go, 
a blind philanthropy might lead us to try and 
unpeople the Haymarket ; and, moreover, it would 
not come to that. I have never known Felicity 
fail in getting hold of fingers to pull her chestnuts 
out of the fire for her, and she will not now." 

He agreed with this view of his sister, and 
said so ; and then there was a pause for refresh- 
ment, the slopbowl claim having become too vocal 
to be longer ignored. 

" She is probably as full of hereditary vice as 
she can hold," resumed Camilla, presently stooping 


to test with her forefinger the temperature of Jock's 
tea. " No, my dear boy, you are not telling the 
truth, it is not too hot. Drink on both sides, 
immorality on both sides." 

" I never heard that Ransome was particularly 

" The presumption is in favour of it ; they 
mostly go together." 

" And we will not give him the benefit of the 
doubt, eh .? " 

^' Drink on both sides, immorality on both 
sides, selfishness on both sides, extravagance and 
folly on both sides," enumerated she, checking off 
the unknown's heritage upon her fingers. 

" Poor little devil ! " in a tone of even pro- 
founder compassion than had conveyed his former 
utterance of the phrase. " If your view is correct, 
she starts in life pretty well handicapped, doesn't 
she .? " 

"Poor little devil!" repeated his wife, in a 
key of some exasperation. " I think that we 
should be the poor little devils if we consented to 
receive such an inmate." 

" But there is no necessity for us to do so. It 
is easy to say no." 

" Easy to say no to Felicity ? Easy for you 
to say no to any one ^ " 

Again he winced, though this time, if every one 
had their due, the wince should have been hers. 
Had she forgotten, or was she impossibly alluding 
to the one pregnant occasion on which he had not 
had the strength of mind to say no .'' Her voice, 
high and decided, cut into his strangled thought. 


" Whichever way we settle It, must be at once 
— to-day. If she does not hear to the contrary 
by return of post, Felicity is quite capable of 
taking silence for consent, and packing the girl 
off by the next train, as she did her pet inebriate 
to Mrs. Holmes last summer." 

" I will leave you to decide," he answered, 
with an effort at flight, contemptible since it was 

" You will do nothing of the kind," answered 
she, seizing him by the lapel of his coat, as he 
passed her on his way to the door. " You will 
not shift the responsibility of the whole affair upon 

" What do you feel like .'' " he answered re- 
signedly, not struggling in a clasp which had more 
of mastery than endearment in it, " Surely it will 
affect you infinitely more than it will me." 

Seeing him thus docile, she loosed her hold. 
" At my age," she said, " all changes in the frame- 
work of one's life seem to be for the worse." 

" Then let it be no," he answered, though not 
again endeavouring for freedom, since he felt that 
one step in that direction would merely mean 

" And yet," she said, a sort of wistfulness that 
he too well knew coming into her hard light eyes, 
" the house is very silent ; but for Jock it might 
be a house of the dead sometimes." 

"We are not very rowdy, I suppose," he 
answered, following the ' ups and downs of her 
thought with a rueful gentleness. 

" We are a dull couple," she returned, veering 


round instantly on the other tack ; " unquestion- 
ably we are often dull — childless people must 
always be so — but if we admit this equivocal ele- 
ment into our lives, we may become something 
much worse than dull." 

" Then do not let us admit it." 

"On the other hand, there would to you at 
least be the undoubted advantage of the com- 
panionship of some one nearer your own age." 

He laughed softly, rallying her. " Felicity is 
foisting a young thing of five and thirty on us, 
then, is she .'' " 

Camilla laughed also, a little unbending in her 
own grim way, but recapturing gravity and the 
argument almost instantaneously. 

" Granting that she is eighteen or twenty in 
actual years, she is probably a hundred in expe- 
rience of evil." 

" In short, you are afraid that she will take 
the bloom off our young innocence," returned he, 
flying for refuge to irony, and resolutely leaving 
the room this time, followed by Jock, who, replete 
with tea, no longer saw any object in pretending 
that he liked his mistress best. 


"The last day, and almost the last hour ! T am 
thoroughly sorry," said Felicity, and she was 
nearly sure that she meant it. 

" Sorry Is a weak word to express what I 
feel ! " is the heartfelt answer. " Where should 
I have been now, I should like to know, but for 
you and Mr. Glanville ? " 

" Where indeed ! " 

The speculation as to Bonnybell's hypothetical 
whereabouts silenced both ejaculators for a mo- 
ment or two, until a glance at the clock telling 
Mrs. Glanville that her typewriter would be back 
from luncheon in ten minutes, and that she her- 
self would have to return to multifarious work in 
her business room after the same time limit, 
hurried her Into new final tendernesses. 

"You know how much I should have liked 
to keep you permanently." 

" Oh yes, yes, of course I do." 

Possibly the extreme fervour of this reas- 
surance was due to a something, if faintly, yet 
uncomfortably self-suspicious, In the tone with 
which the hostess made a statement In whose 
truth that hostess yet almost believed. 


" We have not much time, alas ! " — leaving a 
branch of the subject dimly felt to be a little 
ticklish with some alacrity — " and I want, before 
you go, to give you a tiny carte du pays ; you may 
find it useful." 

" It will be adding an item to your long, long 
list of kindnesses." 

" In the first place, my sister-in-law is much 
older than my brother." 

The hearer, with the black hat and inky 
gloves of imminent departure upon head and 
hand, lifted a tiny face of wistful interest in this 
first recorded fact from the pouf at Felicity's 
feet, upon which a slim body, limp with affection 
and regret, had thrown itself She at once pen- 
sively commented upon it. 

" If she makes up well, I dare say it does not 
show much." 

Mrs. Glanville broke into a horrified laugh. 
" Camilla make up ! My dear child, wait till you 
see her." 

" I shall not have long to wait " — very 

" Well, as you have not much time, I must 
hurry on. She is, as I say, much older than my 

" Yes." 

"And she never could have been handsome." 

" Poor, poor fellow ! " replied the girl, in a 
tone of the most good-hearted compassion. " But, 
no doubt, he has his consolations." 

Her hostess looked down upon the peculiarly 
innocent face at her knee with an expression 


in which the proportion of amusement to aghast- 
ness was considerably less than it had been at some 
of her protigSes utterances. 

" Bonnybell," she said, very gravely, " I really 
dare not ask what you mean ! " Then reflecting 
that the few minutes left her would be scarcely 
long enough to correct a moral standpoint on 
which three months' intercourse had effected so 
little real change, she hastened on. " Camilla is 
a right down good woman, but her manners leave 
something to be desired. In point of fact, she is 
a good deal soured — embittered is perhaps the 
better word — by having no children. Unluckily, 
she is one of those baby-maniacs, who never can 
reconcile themselves to being childless. 1 cannot 
personally understand the feeling ; there seems to 
me something animal about it." 

" I am very fond of children," replied Bonny- 
bell, thoughtfully ; " but when I marry, I shall 
have only two." 

"You will have what God pleases to send 
you, I suppose," rejoined Mrs. Glanville, sharply. 

The other lifted her dove's eyes. " More 
than two are destructive to the appearance." 

The hostess gave a sort of gasp. Of course, 
considering all things, the poor young creature 
was not to be blamed ; but would not she herself 
have done more wisely to have in some degree 
prepared Camilla for the contents of the singular 
parcel she was sending her ? Did " gay as a 
lark " at all cover the area occupied by this re- 
markable young person } 

" My dear child," she said, in a tone largely 


tinged with misgiving, " if you open the cam- 
paign at Stillington by remarks of that class, I 
shall have you back here in London by the first 
train to-morrow." 

" That will be clear gain, at all events." 

Mrs. Glanville did not assent. 

" Camilla would be outraged at a girl of 
eighteen alluding to her future family at all ; and 
if you made her the announcement that you 
have just made to me, I am convinced — yes, 
I am convinced — that she would take you 
by the shoulders and turn you out of the 
house ! " 

There was a minute's pause, for Miss 
Ransome to assimilate this agreeable prophecy. 
Then she said in a voice of profound gloom — 

" I believe that I shall spend my life in being 
turned neck and crop out of houses ; and I shall 
never know what I have done ! " 

" You will, at all events, be able to give a 
good guess in this case," rejoined the other. 

" I shall be able to avoid saying that one 
particular thing," returned Bonnybell, accepting 
her snub with the most perfect sweetness, but in 
a rather hopeless tone ; " but I shall, no doubt, 
say hundreds of other things which I shall find 
out too late that a jeune jille ought not to have 
said. 1 have not the least idea what sort of 
things the right kind oi jeune fille does say." 

This wonder was expressed with apparently 
such perfect good faith, and such deferential ask- 
ing for light, that Felicity — never very hard- 
hearted, and possessed, in this case, by some 


slight inward compunction — abandoned her 
judicial attitude. 

" Between ourselves," she said, in a confidential 
tone, " there is very little that the jeune fille of 
to-day does not say ; but Camilla is not of 

"And is he — Mr. Tancred — not of to-day 
either ? " 

Felicity thought a moment. " Edward } No, 
Edward is not of to-day either. Edward is of 
no particular day ; if anything, he has strayed 
out of the Middle Ages." 

The phrase, as applied to the person in question, 
had no particular meaning ; but Mrs. Glanville 
admired her brother, and it sounded picturesque. 

"We shall make an odd jumble of periods 
between us 1 " — still more hopelessly than before. 
" Oh " — with a sudden burst of clinging affection 
— " oh, how I wish that Mr. Glanville had 
allowed you to keep me permanently, as you were 
so dear and kind as to want to do." 

Miss Ransome's delicate black arm was flung 
across her protectress's knee, and her head and 
attendant black feathers were flopped down upon 
it ; but she lifted her face soon enough to notice 
the expression that her aspiration had called up 
in Felicity's countenance. 

Mrs. Glanville had quite as soon that her 
young friend's eyes had remained hidden, being 
conscious of a slight shade of confusion on the 
dial-plate of her own emotions, and a qualmy 
question flashed across her brain as to whether 
it was possible that in the very tail of the 


despairing orbs lifted to her, full of such un- 
mistakable sorrowful gratitude, a tiny spark of 
contradictory mischief and mirth could lurk. 
Was it conceivable that the child — she was a 
terribly sharp child, and her vicious upbringing 
had made her still sharper — could have pricked 
the bladder, and detected the pious fraud of 
Tom's supposed eagerness for her departure ? 

" You must not run away with the idea," she 
said, with more flurry than approved itself to 
her own judgment — "you must not run away 
with the idea that Tom dislikes you." 

" Oh no, I am sure he does not " — with 
courteous hurry. 

The little uplifted face was so touchingly, 
unresentfuUy sad, that Felicity decided with 
relief that the impression of hardly detectable 
amusement in it, received by her a minute ago, 
must have been an optical delusion. 

" We shall both miss you very much," she 
said with sincere cordiality. " When you are not 
impossible, you are as nice a little girl as one 
is likely to meet in a summer's day. I have 
given you an excellent character, and all that you 
have got to do is to live up to it." 

" 'To live up to it ! " repeated Bonnybell. 
" Will you mind telling me what you have said 
about me ? " 

Misgiving as to the height of the moral 
plane upon which Miss Ransome was warranted 
to move so obviously dictated this inquiry that 
Felicity laughed a little. 

" I have said that you are as gay as a lark, 


to begin with. By-the-by " — with an air of 
bethinking herself — " if I were you I would not 
be too gay, just at first. Of course, I thoroughly 
understand that it argues no want of feeling on 
your part, and that the rebound is perfectly 
natural ; but Camilla is very conventional." 

Miss Ransome bowed her head submissively 
under the blast of these somewhat contradictory 

" Gay, but not too gay," she said, softly ; 
and once again an uneasy faint impression of 
infinitesimal mirth went like a whiff through 
Mrs. Glanville's consciousness. 

" I have told her how invaluable you have 
been to me at the ' Happy Evenings.' There 
I shall miss you cruelly " — with an unmistakable 
accent of sincerity. " Your knack of holding 
the girls' attention and keeping them amused is 
really very remarkable ; so different from poor 
Miss Sloggett " — with a disgusted backhander 
at a subordinate fellow-worker in the vineyard 
of philanthropy. 

" Is Mrs. Tancred like you ? Like you, I 
mean, in giving up her life to — to doing good ? " 

" She is not as active as she might be," replied 
Felicity, with a modest regret at the poor figure 
cut by her sister-in-law in the path of mercy. 
" Camilla does not come forward as she ought 
to do ; she has that silly horror which I cannot 
understand " — and, indeed, no one has ever 
suspected Felicity of it — "of seeing her name 
in print ; but I believe " — magnanimously — " that 
in her humdrum way, and with the greatest 


precaution, lest any one should hear of it, she 
does a fair amount of good." 

" And Mr. Tancred ? Does he do good 
too ? " 

" Oh yes, of course, whenever he has the 
chance. He is on the Stock Exchange 1 " 
There was no unconscious irony in the juxta- 
position of the two statements. 

-" On the Stock Exchange ! " repeated the 
hearer, thoughtfully. 

" He was determined not to be dependent 
on Camilla — to have a profession — so he went 
on the Stock Exchange. I do not know that it 
suits him particularly well ; but anyhow it gives 
him something to do." 

" I see," after a short pause ; "Mr. Tancred 
is away most of every day, then ? " 

« Yes. Why shouldn't he be ? "—rather 

" Oh, no reason at all ; I was only thinking 
how nice and sensible it was ! " 

After another pause, " Does he never go to 
race-meetings .'' " 

" Never." 

It took Miss Ransome two or three moments 
to assimilate this last, to her, incredible piece of 
intelligence ; then she put another question. 

" Do they never come up to London ? " 

" Oh yes, they are always in town from 
Christmas to Easter. They are not people who 
do much in the way of society, but in any case 
that would not affect you this year in your deep 



Bonnybell's lip quivered, as if in preparation 
for a tear or two, but they were relentlessly 
snubbed back by their owner, 

" Of course it would not." 

" But you shall help me with my Happy 
Evenings again," continued Felicity, perceiving 
the droop in her young friend's spirits, and with 
bowels genuinely yearning over her ; " and the 
Fancy Fair for the All England Cataleptics will 
be coming off in May. You shall help me with 
that too. Oh, I am not joking ; I really cannot 
say how much I shall miss my dear little right 
hand ! There is the carriage," as the butler entered 
to announce that the brougham was at the door. 
" This is really too sad 1 How I do hate the 
word ' good-bye ! ' " 

There were tears of real regret in Felicity's 
eyes, and a quiver in her voice, as she explained 
that if the wind were not so cold she would 
accompany her -protigie to the hall door ; and that 
she would say good-bye for her to Tom, who 
would be so sorry to have been out at the 
moment of her departure. But as it happened 
Tom had no need to be sorry. Tom was not out. 
As the long black slimness set its narrow foot on 
the last step of the stair, Tom emerged from the 

" I am coming to see you off. 1 will jump 
into a hansom, and be at Paddington before 
you," he said with a carefully lowered voice. 

" You will do nothing of the kind," came the 
precipitate answer, " I mean " — with a dove-like 
gentleness of correction of whatever was harsh 


in her first utterance, " that there is no place so 
odious for saying good-bye as at a railway-station." 

" It shall be as you wish. God bless you, 
dear ! " 

Tom's heart was as large as his waistcoat, and 
there was a tear in his blue eye. It was still 
trembling there, as he turned from the street door, 
whence the neat green brougham was no longer 
visible, to face his wife, who, remembering 
a forgotten last word, had run downstairs just 
too late to utter it. 

" You are not out ! How silly of you, with 
your bald head, to expose yourself to an east 

" I wish that you would not rub my bald 
head quite so freely into me before the servants," 
returned he, with less gratitude than exasperation, 
retreating into his lair. 

" And I wish," retorted she, " that you had 
not compelled me, by your silly sentimentality 
about her, to banish that poor dear homeless little 

And then they both felt better. 


" I CANNOT think why she is coming by such an 
early train," said Mrs. Tancred, referring to a 
note less blackly bordered than she thought it 
ought to be. 

" Perhaps Tom has put his foot down," re- 
turned her husband. 

" She spells brougham phonetically, as if it 
were a besom." After a moment, " What on 
earth shall I do with her between tea and 
dinner time ? " 

" Tell her to ' rest.' Is not that the proper 
thing ? " 

" Pooh ! at eighteen they never want to rest." 

" Shall you only send to meet her at Swinston, 
or go yourself ? " 

He had tried to make the question as colour- 
less as possible, but had not been able quite to 
keep out of his tone a slight indication of bias 
towards the more welcoming course. 

" I shall send. I have no wish to be seen by 
any chance member of my acquaintance who may 
happen to be on the platform with a young 
member of the demi-monde sobbing in my arms." 

Edward Tancred received this fiat in silence ; 


even the shrug with which he greeted it was an 
inward one of the spirit alone, and in which the 
shoulders took no part. Perhaps the rebuke 
implied in his muteness or the stings of her own 
conscience might have suggested to Camilla that 
she had rather overdone the brutality of her last 
speech, for though her next utterance was not 
amiable, the key in which it was pitched was 
distinctly less trenchant than its predecessor's, 

" I hope she will not think it necessary to kiss 
me. Of course she will not wish to do so " — Mrs. 
Tancred had no illusion as to her own destitute- 
ness in the matter of charm ; her husband some- 
times thought that life would be rather easier if 
she had — " but she may think I expect it." 

" If she does, and it happens indoors, so that 
nothing compromising is involved, I hope you 
will be equal to the occasion." 

There was that something of lightly mocking 
in his tone which, as Camilla knew, implied the 
nearest approach to disapproval he ever permitted 
himself of any of her words or actions. 

" Perhaps you would like to go to meet her 
In the brougham yourself.'' " 

" I shall not be back from London." 

The matter-of-fact answer to a question in- 
tended to be a scoff took the wind out of Mrs. 
Tancred's sails, which for a moment or two 
flapped idly against her masts. But presently a 
new zephyr swelled them. 

" It is a leap in the dark, if ever there was 
one ; and at my age the taste for such agilities 
is pretty well extinct." 


There was such a sombre misgiving in her 
tone, that his own changed at once to that of 
the kindest, patientest reasoning. 

'* Don't you think you are making rather a 
mountain out of a molehill ? The girl comes as 
an ordinary visitor. Supposing the worst, that 
you — we " (correcting himself) " do not care much 
about her, the visit ends, she goes, and whose 
bones are broken .'' " 

Mrs. Tancred shook her head. *' Having 
once undertaken her, I shall put it through, 
unless, of course " — with her little dry laugh — 
" you set your foot down, like Tom." 

"The comparison jarred upon him. She had 
meant it to do so, as a relief to her own ill 
humour, but not being one of those fortunate 
people who can indulge in pet vices, like indiges- 
tible dainties, without after ill eiFects, she expiated 
her ebullition by an instantaneous remorse, which, 
being unexpressed, did neither of them any 

" Felicity gave one absolutely no data to go 
upon " — drawing from her pocket the brief note 
inserted in Miss Ransome's letter by the war- 
ranter of that young lady's general soundness, 
" ' Gay as a lark.' " She paused after the quotation, 
and Edward had a nervous dread that she was 
going to add the oft-repeated gloss, " When her 
mother died three months ago," but for once 
she abstained. " ' Gay as a lark, and has been 
of invaluable assistance to me in my "Happy 
evenings." ' Not a word else ! not a hint as to 
her character, her tastes, her faults ! " 


" Perhaps she will be of invaluable assistance 
to us in our happy evenings." 

It was said in a perfectly innocent voice, as 
offering a plausible suggestion ; but his wife 
knew that it was his revenge for Tom's foot. 

" B-r-o-o-m ! Yes, there can be no mistake 
about it ! " said Mrs. Tancred, recurring to and 
carefully verifying poor Miss Ransome's stumble 
upon the path of orthography, and forcing her 
husband to verify it too. 

He laughed with contemptible male leniency. 
" Do you think she will arrive riding upon it, 
like a witch ? " His slight mirth was not 

" I think that to our other treats we shall 
have to add that of educating her." 

" Oh, I would not bother about that ! " replied 
he, departing from his golden rule of never 
offering advice to that consort, who had had so 
much longer a time to learn wisdom in than had 
been his portion. "I would not bother about 
that. Let her ride through life upon her broom, 
if it amuses her." 

"That may be your happy-go-lucky way," 
replied she, crisply, " but it is not mine." 

Happy-go-lucky ! He repeated the epithet 
over to himself several times, in the dogcart, as 
he sent his horse along the flat old coach road, 
liberal of margin, to Swinston station ; while the 
idle question put itself to his intelligence, whether 
a compound word, of which neither of the com- 
ponent parts was true, could be true as a whole ? 
Happy-go-lucky. He was neither " happy " nor 


" lucky." Could he, therefore, be truly said to be 
happy-go-lucky ? 

There was another traveller on the same line 
of railway, in the afternoon of that day, who 
made the hour's journey from Paddington in a 
train that preceded the express which brought 
Mr. Tancred back from the City, and whose 
reflections, despite the lark-quality with which she 
was credited, were not much more rosy-tinted 
than his own. 

" I wonder," she said to herself, as her great 
eyes, that were no longer under any compulsion 
to look grateful, or affectionate, or docile, in the 
matchless freedom of an empty railway-carriage, 
followed the yellow-brick squalors of the sliding 
slums. " I wonder how long it will be before 
Edward puts his foot down in the same way that 
Tom did ? Will it be a matter of months or 
weeks ? Judging from the portrait good old 
Felicity drew of her sister-in-law, I should say 
it might be minutes ! If old Tom had not been 
such an ass, I might have stayed with them for 
ever and a day, and it was not a bad berth ! 
What asses most men are ! and all what brutes ! 
No, not all I Old Tom is not a brute ! How 
kind he was on the day of the funeral during 
that horrible drive to Kensal Green ! But what 
an ass ! 'I shall be at Paddington before you ! 
God bless you, dear ! ' " 

She chuckled a litde, and the lark — a very 
sophisticated town lark — began to re-awake in 

Presently, having the carriage to herself, she 


left her seat and flitted to the opposite window, 
then back again, standing up to command the 
landscape better. Not that she had any taste for 
landscape, an appreciation of the beauties of Nature 
being as much a matter of education as spelling or 
ciphering, and possessed as little by the peasant 
as the dog. She knew that Italy or Switzerland 
expect to be admired ; but that the tame, Alpless, 
templeless Berkshire, through which the G.W.R. 
was carrying her, could command any approbation 
would never have occurred to her, even though 
November seemed reluctant yet to tear from the 
pleasant countryside its red and sombre garment 
of autumn. 

But though gifted with no love of the pictu- 
resque, Miss Ransome was endowed with plenty of 
alert curiosity, which grew sharper as the little 
diamond -set watch at her wrist told her that she 
must be nearing her destined station, and caused 
her to scan with a keener interest the " country 
seats " — in advertisement phrase — which here and 
there were indicated by a lodge visible from the line, 
or a gable peeping through red woods. She had 
not been informed as to the distance from Swinston 
to Stillington Manor. Any one of those half or 
quarter revealed houses might therefore prove 
to be her future home. If not, it might prove to 
be the home of a neighbour and acquaintance. 
Any one of those neighbours might possess an 
eldest son. 

" Marriage is the only possible outlet for 
me," she said to herself, relapsing into gloom, as 
her eye rested appraisingly upon the brand-new 


machicolations of a pretentious mansion on a low 
hillside. " It is an odious one, yet there is no 
other ; but whatever old Felicity may say, I will 
not have more than two children. If I have not 
a very good settlement, I will have none. Why 
should I bring any poor creature into the world 
to be a wretched little adventurer like myself? " 

" Miss Ransome." 

Never had the voice of her butler made an 
announcement less grateful to Mrs. Tancred's 
ears. They were prepared for it, as the sound 
of the horses' hoofs had penetrated to the morning- 
room, where she sat alone before her tea-table. 
But that sound had not been permitted to lift her 
spectacles — the pair most hated of Edward's soul, 
with the thickest rims and the largest goggles — 
from her book. She would do her duty by the 
expected imposition when once it was laid on 
her shoulders, but that she should manifest 
empressement or pleasure in assuming the burden 
so brazenly shifted by Felicity from her own to 
Camilla's back would be an offence at once against 
truth and decency. 

Though Bonnybell had heartily dreaded and 
disliked the idea of her change of milieu, it had 
never occurred to her that the introduction to her 
new patroness would make her feel shy. Felicity 
kissed her upon arriving. A fortiori, Camilla 
would wish to kiss her, since in Miss Ransome's 
experience the less attractive a human countenance 
was, the more anxious it was to approach itself to 
one's own. She must be prepared for this, must 


appear willing, if possible more than willing, to be 

This had been her plan of campaign during 
the five-mile drive in the brougham, while clank- 
ing under the stone portico of the hall door, while 
passing through the evidently much-sat-in large 
hall, and being ushered into the morning-room 
opening out of it ; but no sooner had her feet 
crossed the threshold of this latter, and seen the 
tall gauntness that faced her slowly rising from 
its seat and deliberately replacing its spectacles 
in their leather case, and awaiting her without 
one conciliatory inch of advance towards her, 
than, with lightning speed, she realized the im- 
possibility of her project. Attempt to kiss that 
icy mask ! Her buoyant step faltered, her ideas 
grew confused, only a hazy notion that her plan 
was a good one, and that she must carry out as 
much of it as was possible, still occupying her brain. 

With merely this dim guide for her conduct, 
and becoming aware that she was now quite 
close to the grey-haired iceberg ahead, she 
dropped a little French curtsey, and laid a small, 
respectful, butterfly kiss upon the bony fingers 
held grudgingly out to her. 

Mrs. Tancred snatched away her hand, though 
more in a sort of ferocious mauvaise honte than 
from any more hostile motive. It was so very 
seldom, throughout her fifty years, that any one 
had kissed Camilla's hand. Edward had done 
so, fifteen years ago, as a graceful unmarried lad 
of twenty, in innocent acknowledgment of long 
hospitalities, and she had thereupon straightway 


proposed marriage to him — that marriage which 
he had been too young, too grateful, and too 
much taken aback to decline. 

Was it any wonder that, having such asso- 
ciations with the courtesy in question, Mrs. 
Tancred should mark her disapprobation of it 
with what, to the uninitiated, might seem needless 
emphasis ? 

To Bonnybell this miscarriage of her plan of 
action at its very outset brought a momentary 
paralysis, and she stood dumbfounded, while an 
awkward remorse for her reception of what, 
though a silly and misplaced, might have been 
a well-meant civility, impelled CamOla to make 
a conciliatory remark to the effect that she was 
afraid the tea was cold. 

" I like it cold," replied Miss Ransome, 
with the sweetest promptitude and the most 
instantaneous rally. 

" You like it cold ? " repeated Camilla. 

The repetition of the polite assertion was 
merely because that ferocious shyness of hers did 
not suggest to Mrs. Tancred any more original 
observation ; but the tone in which it was conveyed 
made Miss Ransome say to herself that " the old 
woman was even more terrible than she had 
expected." No sign of this reflection appeared, 
however, on the dial-plate of her innocent face. 

" I mean that I do not mind its being cold. 
I like to take it just as it comes." 

" Is that the way in which you like to take 
things generally } " asked the other, unstiffening 
into an involuntary smile. 


It was difficult to look at anything so small, 
so dewy, so palpably made of rose-leaves as 
Bonnybell's face without smiling ; and in addi- 
tion to this impulse shared by the generality 
of her species, Mrs, Tancred had for her own 
portion that extravagant admiration of beauty 
which, unmixed with any tincture of spite, is the 
doubtful appanage of the frankly ugly and really 
good among women. 

" I think one has to, more or less, don't you 
think ? " replied the rose-leaf with a pretty diffi- 
dence, as one not competent to hold an opinion 
with any tenacity in the presence of a person so 
far superior in wisdom to herself. 

With a passing shudder at the slipshodness 
of the grammar displayed in the answer, coupled 
with a slight sense of approbation of the defer- 
ence of its tone, and an inward reflection — some- 
what the reverse of that lately made by its object 
— that the new arrival was not quite so impossible 
as she had expected, Mrs. Tancred thawed a little 
further, and put an almost friendly question as to 
the welfare of the couple whom her visitor had 
just left. 

" Mrs. Glanville has a slight cold," replied the 
other, with the glad glibness of feeling herself 
on safe ground, " but taking care of it, and I 
do not think it will be much. She caught it as 
we were coming out of the ' Happy Evening ' last 

For a moment Mrs. Tancred hesitated. 
Should she seize this early opportunity for be- 
ginning the projected education of her charge, 


and point out to her that it is grammatically 
impossible to come out of a " Happy Evening," 
or should she let the slip pass ? Her rejoinder 
showed that she had chosen the weaker-minded 

" Felicity tells me that you have been in- 
valuable to her at the Recreation Hall." 

" I was so glad to be able to do any little 
thing to show my gratitude to her." 

The statement was certainly not untrue, but 
as certainly that was not the reason for its utter- 
ance. Veracity being a goddess who had never 
occupied a very high position in Bonnybell's 
Pantheon, she said it because she thought that 
the jeune fille, up to whose character she was in 
these surroundings bound to try to live, should 
and would say it. 

"Felicity would have liked you to prolong 
your visit to them indefinitely ? " 

There was a faint accent of asking in what 
would otherwise sound like the assertion of a 
fact, and Miss Ransome stole a wily glance at 
her hostess. Did she know about Tom, or was 
she trying to find out ? 

Twenty-four hours later the girl would not 
have put this question even to herself, having 
long ere the expiration of that time learnt how 
little the indirect or circuitous entered into 
Camilla's methods. Here was need for wary 

" She said so." 

" Then the objection came from Tom ? " — 
with an accent of very thinly veiled incredulity. 


But the cautious young stranger was not to 
be surprised into any such admission, nor did 
the fact that Felicity's version of the circumstances 
departed somewhat widely from strict accuracy 
make it at all less easy to her young protigh to 
back it up. 

" Of course, it must be a nuisance for any 
man to have a third person always en tiers with 
him and his wife," she replied with a judicious 
generality. Then, divining from something in 
Mrs. Tancred's face that the ground was not 
very firm under her, she skipped off it with a 
masterly agility. "That was what made it so 
overwhelmingly kind of you and IVIr. Tancred to 
let me be sent here." 

The humility of the wording, with its plain 
implication that the speaker could never be re- 
garded except as a burdensome parcel to be 
transferred from one pair of reluctant hands to 
another, and the guilty feeling that such had been 
precisely her own attitude of mind towards her, 
combined to mollify yet further the person at 
whom they were aimed. 

" Edward and I are too old married people to 
have Tom's eagerness for a tite-a-tete" she said, 
with a hint of what Bonnybell suspected to be 
irony, " but " — with a smile that, though, like 
everything else about her, was unbeautiful, was 
yet not hostile — " I think it was kind of us ! " 


"They must have a chef^'' said Bonnybell after 
dinner to herself, as she and Camilla began to 
tread back their path through the long enfilade 
of rooms that led from the dining-room to the 
library, where, accompanied by ceiling-high books, 
the small family apparently spent its evenings. 
"The cuisine is better than the Glanvilles'. I 
fancy that philanthropic women very seldom have 
good cooks. Yes, they have a chef I What a 
fool he must be to spend two-thirds of the year 
in the country ! " 

As she and her hostess stood by the fire. Miss 
Ransome's reflections took another turn. 

" What a gloomy room ! Not a single photo- 
graph about ! How much better those old ancestors 
would look taken out of their frames and draped 
in light-blue velvet, as poor Claire did ours before 
she sold them ! " 

Mrs. Tancred, with an evident intention of 
industry, sat down by a green-shaded electric 
lamp, and drawing a roomy work-basket towards 
her, extracted from it a large piece of homely 
plain sewing. 

" Ought I to set a footstool for her, or is she 


the kind of person who likes to do everything 
herself? Ah, it is as I thought," as the diffi- 
dently offered support was rejected with the 
words — 

" Thank you, my dear ; but my legs are long, 
and I have no wish to have my knees knocking 
against my nose." 

" I am so sorry," returned Bonnybell, humbly ; 
" it is a silly habit that I have got into ! Claire 
never could bear to be without a footstool ! " 

Mrs. Tancred's seam remained suspended in 
mid air, the needle arrested in its journey, while 
through her spectacles her eyes, which looked 
far too penetratingly keen to need them, flashed 
in shocked displeasure at her visitor. 

" Claire ! " she repeated in an awful voice, 
"Who is Claire?" 

" Claire was my mother," replied the girl, 
quailing, and crying to herself in a passion of 
self-reproach that she had made a colossal blunder 
on the very threshold ; that, of course, the jeune 
fille does not allude to her mother by her Christian 

" And you speak of her as Claire ? " 

"It was her own wish. She could not bear 
me to call her mother ; she thought it dated her 
— of course, it did." 

Mrs. Tancred was silent for a minute or two. 
It would be unseemly to address to the daughter 
of the departed the vigorous epithets which alone 
sprang to her own lips in connection with that 
lady. Presently a suddenly risen hope set speech 
free again. 



" If those were Lady Ransome's views, she 
probably did not care to have you much with 

" Oh yes, she did — sometimes," replied the 
girl, slowly, and with a painful weighing of each 
word by the jeune fille standard. " She liked us 
to be taken for sisters ; and when the light was 
not strong there really looked very little differ- 
ence in age between us." 

Again there was a pause, the potent reasons 
of her deadness and her motherhood being 
scarcely potent enough to keep within the barrier 
of Mrs. Tancred's lips the expression of her 
estimate of the scandalous author of Bonnybell's 
being. Her next question in the constraint of 
its tone evidenced the violence done to her 

" You were educated at home } or were you 
sent to school ? " 

" I was at school in Paris for a while." 

" For long ? " 

Bonnybell hesitated slightly. In point of fact, 
her sojourn in the Pension de Demoiselles in 
question had not outlasted a month ; but " Toute 
v6rite n'est pas bonne a dire." 

"For some time." 

" And then Lady Ransome found that she 
could not get on without you ? " 

Reprobation of the implied selfish disregard of 
her daughter's welfare had forced itself uncon- 
querably into Camilla's voice ; and Bonnybell, 
who, with all her numerous faults, was not devoid 
of generosity, found herself unable to leave her 


questioner in what would be for herself an 
advantageous error. 

"It was not CI — my mother's fault," she 
explained slowly ; " Madame le Roy asked her 
to take me away." 

" Asked her to take you away ? " 

Again for a moment Bonnybell hesitated. 
Should she " give away " her parent, whom, after 
aU, nothing could now harm, and tell the truth, 
seeing that it was on getting wind of that parent's 
antecedents, and the estimate in which she was 
held by her countrymen and countrywomen, that 
Madame le Roy had requested the removal of 
her daughter } It was clear that at the present 
moment the girl's new patroness was labouring 
under the perfectly natural error that it was for 
misconduct of her own that the young creature 
before her had been ejected. 

" She thinks that I was kicked out for 
some amourette ! Well " — the hesitation had not 
lasted more than five clock-ticks — " let her go 
on thinking so. If I had stayed another month, 
I dare say I should have been, and poor Claire 
is dead, and cannot take up the cudgels for 

" Asked her to take you away ? " Mrs. Tancred 
had laid down her spectacles ; but though their 
glowering roundness had been frightening, the 
unshaded rebuke of the eyes behind them was 
distinctly more so. 

The repetition of the sentence had taken so 
plainly interrogative a tone that it must needs be 
answered. In this case the jeune fille idea was of 


no help. The jeune fille could never have been 
turned out of a boarding school, and Miss 
Ransome must be guided by her own lights. 
Since truth was never a sine quA non with her, she 
might as well make out as good a case as she 
could for herself. 

" I believe that Madame le Roy thought I 
was not making much progress — that another 
system of education might suit me better." 

A long practice in the art of fibbing had given 
Bohnybell a high degree of proficiency, and no one 
that heard this unhesitating utterance, and saw 
the unflinching though modest directness with 
which her eyes met those of her catechist, would 
guess how much larger a draft upon the girl's 
imagination than her memory the explanation had 

Camilla listened, uncomfortably puzzled. The 
reason given sounded ludicrously inadequate, yet 
the child's whole air and manner was that of one 
telling the simple truth. 

Mrs. Tancred had never had the advantage 
of living with a really good liar ; and so dismiss- 
ing all doubt of the unlikely fact recorded, her 
mind made a transition to the cynically amused 
speculation as to what the alternative system of 
education could be that taught its pupil to spell 
the word " brougham " as poor Miss Ransome 
had so lately been innocently guilty of doing, 

Bonnybell's thoughts meanwhile resolved them- 
selves into the two distressed self-queries, " If she 
goes on like this much longer, shall I be able to 
help contradicting myself ? " and, " Is it possible 


that Edward is going to have the brutality to leave 
us to ourselves for the whole evening ? " 

It was not possible ; or, at least, the dreaded 
contingency did not happen, and Edward himself 
followed soon, though saunteringly, upon the heels 
of his guest's fears. 

He stood for a few minutes with his back to 
the fire, not looking particularly at either of his 
ladies, but rubbing his foot gently over Jock's 
reverse, that dog sharing the belief of many of his 
race, that the really civil way to receive a friend 
is to roll over on your back, and flourish all your 
four legs in the air at once, like waved hands, at 

Bonnybell drew a breath of relief. How much 
lighter the atmosphere had grown since he came 
in ! and one might relax the strain to remember 
what one's last sentence had been, and to be sure 
that it did not contradict one's last but one ! Yet 
it seemed destined to be an evening of tete-h-tites. 
Though the one whose prolongation she had 
dreaded was happily at an end, JVIiss Ransome 
so'on found herself involved in a second one with 
her host himself. 

Mrs. Tancred having been given a low-voiced 
message by the butler, from which the words 
"water-bed," "gratitude," "invaluable" dimly 
emerged, a message whose tail was brusquely cut 
off by the recipient of it, but which resulted in 
her hastily leaving the room, a peril of a different 
kind from her former one must await the visitor. 

" Of course, now that she is clear ofi^, he will 
begin to make love to me ! Was I ever alone in 


the room for five minutes with a man without 
his beginning to make love to me ! Tom began 
the first evening. Happily I am a good way 

But apparently the manners and customs of 
the shady debauchees to whom Miss Bonnybell's 
upbringing had acclimatized her, and from whom 
she generalized, formed no criterion for the conduct 
of the gentleman in whose company she now 
found herself. He did not change his attitude 
or his occupation by an inch, his foot still gently 
rolling the beatified Jock slowly to and fro, after 
the method that experience had taught him to be 
most acceptable. Neither did he speak. 

Edward Ransome had never much flow of 
small talk, going mooning through that life whose 
circumstances forbade his ever giving open ex- 
pression to his real feelings or true thoughts, in a 
sort of dreamy twilight of silence and self-sup- 
pression. He ought to say something to the 
dazzling anomaly that had seated itself by his 
dull hearthstone, but for the life of him he could 
not think what. 

It was the anomaly who, surprised and 
relieved at his entire apparent innocence of the 
kind of enterprise with which she had credited or 
discredited him, saved him the trouble of initiating 
a subject. 

" Am I sitting in your chair ? " A movement 
just sketched with hasty grace towards leaving the 
seat she occupied accompanied the question. 

" Oh dear, no ! " in courteous distress at the 
suggestion. " I have not got a chair." 


" You do not say so ? " 

The words were nothing, but the tone carried 
such a delicate implication of interest in anything 
relating to his habits, coupled with a still more 
delicate fear of carrying that interest into intru- 
siveness, that Edward felt vaguely gratified. 

" I mean that I have not any special chair 
which makes me inclined to growl as Jock does 
when another dog approaches the sacred confines 
of his basket. 

" Thank you for relieving my mind ! " she 
answered gratefully. " I thought I might have 
taken it without knowing — one makes such 
stupid mistakes out of ignorance ! " 

There was a meek but not exaggerated thank- 
fulness for his reassuring information in her whole 
air ; and as if encouraged by his indulgence to 
gain further enlightenment, she went on — 

"But Mrs. Tancred has ?" 

" Has what ? " He had lost sight of her 
queries in a dreamy enjoyment of her prettiness. 

" Has a special chair ? " 

" Has she .? " 

" Hasn't she .? " 

Both were smiling ; he at the inquiring turn 
of her mind, she at his vagueness. Both looked 
at the lately vacated seat, and Bonnybell said 
with hesitating solicitude — 

" I hope it was not anything annoying that 
took Mrs. Tancred away." 

He shook his head. " It often happens. 
The village and the parson are perfectly con- 
scienceless in their calls upon her." 


There was what sounded like a regretful and 
rather affectionate admiration in his voice. Was 
it possible that he could like his old Gorgon ? It 
was, at all events, safer to go upon the supposition 
that he did, and to shape one's remarks accordingly. 

" Mrs. Glanville spoke with the deepest admi- 
ration of Mrs. Tancred's work," the girl said in 
a very respectful tone, and executing her piece of 
embroidery upon Felicity's real utterance with the 
deftest speed and readiness. 

" Did she indeed .'' " replied he, in a key of 
high surprise, while his lazy eyes flashed a look 
at her, of whose keenness she had not supposed 
them capable, and which would not have dis- 
graced Camilla's own. " And yet their methods 
are not much alike." 

"You mean that Mrs. Tancred does not get 
up on platforms — does not speak in public ? " 

In her perfect darkness as to which mode of 
influencing the human race, his wife's or his 
sister's, most recommended itself to the husband 
and brother. Miss Ransoihe stole out her feeler 
with cautious colourlessness. 

"No, my wife does not get up upon plat- 

There was no emphasis laid on the denial of 
Camilla's claim to puffed and self-advertised use- 
fulness, and the answer might seem as colourless 
as the question, yet after its utterance no vestige 
of doubt remained in Bonnybell's mind as to 
which of his female philanthropists' methods 
Edward preferred. Perhaps he did not care much 
about either. Perhaps he was indifferent to or 


averse from philanthropy at all. She might as 
well ask him. Men were so much easier to ask 
questions of than women. 

" You do not do anything of the kind your- 
self ? " 

"Of what kind?" 

" Oh, good works — that sort of thing." 

She expected his answer with a flattering 
hanging on his words, but a slight frown creased 
his forehead as he replied — 

"No, I do not do any good works — or bad 
ones either. 1 am a mere cumberer of the 

There was a slight pause ; she commenting 
inwardly upon his phrase, or rather upon a part 
of it — " no bad ones either." I know how much 
of that to believe. " Qui s'excuse s'accuse ! " 
Her amiable rejoinder, when it came, was gently 

" I see that 1 must not take you at your own 

The want of an answering smile, and the 
averting of his eyes, told her that the topic was 
not a gratifying one to him ; that here was one 
of the men — almost unknown in her experience 
— who did not wish to talk about themselves ; 
nor did she suspect that the gravity of his recep- 
tion of her feeler was due to the slight sense of 
discomfort that one of her late carefully prepared 
sentences had produced. Why did she tell that 
unnecessary lie about Felicity's admiration of 
Camilla's work ? She must have known that 
it was one ! 


He was glad, and Bonnybell was not as sorry 
as she would have expected to be, when the door 
opened to admit Camilla. The latter was shortly 
followed by men-servants, who laid out a tea- 
table— an evident survival from the, to Bonny- 
bell, incredible period of Mrs. Tancred's girl- 
hood ; and Jock, ceasing to make a fool of himself 
on the hearthrug, and knowing that the hour of 
pet-dog biscuits had come, trotted confidently 
up to the board. He did not know that in the 
unprecedented novelty whom he had carefully 
sniiFed over, and finally acquiesced in, lay an 
enemy to his own peace. 

" You do not mean to say that you let him 
have it for nothing ? " cried Bonnybell, in ani- 
mated remonstrance. "We never allowed our 
little Mimi to eat a mouthful without barking 
for it." 

" Was * little Mimi ' your dog ? " asked 
Camilla, in a voice that, though carping at the 
silliness of the name, had yet a ring of true fellow- 
feeling in it. 

" Yes, she was such a beauty. I do not know 
what Sir Alg — one of CI — my mother's friends — 
did not give for her." 

Thorny is the path of virtuous conversation. 
People did not talk of Sir Algernon, and she 
was within an ace of Claire-ing her departed 
parent again, and her audience was strictly silent ; 
it expected her to go on, so she evidendy must 
continue her narrative, trusting in whatever parody 
of Providence had hitherto guided her steps to 
steer her safely through it. 


" Mimi was twin-sister to the little dog that 
always drove in the Bois with Lolotte, sitting up 
in the victoria beside her, and dressed in the same 
colours and jewels as her mistress." 

There was a slight sound as of somebody- 
gasping, then a pause, then a question. 

" And who, pray, is Lolotte ? " 

Upon this query there followed another gasp ; 
but this time it came from the causer of the first. 
Was it possible that there existed in the civilized 
world a benighted being who had not heard of 
Lolotte ? — an establishment where she was as 
unmentionable as Sir Algy ? The poor young 
creature, who became suddenly conscious of the 
terrible faux pas which her beautifully shod feet 
had taken, threw an agonized glance of entreaty 
for help at Edward. " Tou know Lolotte," it said 
dumbly ; " for goodness' sake say something, and 
get me out of this horrible entanglement." But 
Edward maintained a masterly, if cowardly, in- 


Though early hours — except in the topsy-turvy 
sense of seeing the sunrise overnight — had never 
entered into the scheme of Miss Ransome's 
existence, and she was as little indebted to the 
lamb as to the lark for an example, yet never 
had clock uttered a more welcome sound than 
that single stroke of half-past ten, which made 
Mrs. Tancred, as if by machinery, fold up her 
large seam, restore it to its basket, and rise from 
her chair. The clocks at Stillington struck all 
together, for all were true to Greenwich as the 
needle to the pole. 

" You are probably tired," said the hostess ; 
and the guest was reduced to such a jelly-like 
state of tremor and self-distrust that she did not 
know whether to acquiesce in or disclaim the accu- 
sation. If she admitted fatigue, Camilla would 
probably despise her ; if she denied, it would 
very likely — -judging by her past experience of 
husbands and wives — be looked upon as a 
manoeuvre for procuring a tite-h-tete with Edward 
in the smoking-room. So she answered, with 
deferential hesitation — 

" Just pleasantly ; nothing to speak of. 
Thank you so much." 



" Thank me for what ? For telling you that 
you are tired ? " 

It was a discomfiting way of taking a little 
meaningless courtqsy, but at least it ended in 
landing Bonnybell in the blessed security of her 
own bedroom. For, except that there was nothing 
to speak of in the way of eatables and drinkables 
provided for the night — Mrs. Tancred being of the 
antediluvian race who suppose that people after an 
admirable eight-o'clock dinner do not need cold 
cutlets or quails to sustain them till morning — 
she found herself extremely, roomily comfortable ; 
and having got into a dressing-gown, with more 
lace and openwork about it than Camilla would 
think quite moral, threw herself into an admir- 
ably stuffed armchair, to take stock of her own 
blunders, and ask herself whether they were 
quite irreparable. 

" Oh, what would I give for a cigarette ! but 
I suppose that that would about finish me. 
However many miles off her rooms may be, she 
would be certain to smell it, and it is too cold to 
smoke out of the window." 

Her thoughts went back regretfully to the 
many little pleasant evening smokes in old Tom's 
den in Hill Street, when Felicity was safely away 
at some committee meeting. " It shall be as you 
wish. God bless you, dear ! " She laughed out 
loud again, as she had done in the train. 

Then her reflections took a graver turn. If 
it were possible to avoid it, she must not be 
turned out of Stillington, as she had been — 
however poor, good-natured old Felicity might try 


to gloss it over — turned out of Hill Street. To 
avoid this undesirable result, one of the first and 
most urgent postulates was to ascertain, with 
the least possible delay, what topics of conversa- 
tion were permissible and what tabooed in this 
extraordinary atmosphere of Puritanism and 
prudery. If she could make a friend of 
Edward, and quietly put her case before him ? 
She dismissed the suggestion with a shrug. " If 
you try to make a friend of a man, he tries to 
kiss you ! " This was a syllogism whose accuracy 
she had never had any reason to doubt. Valuable 
as enlightenment from a person who had had 
fifteen years' intimate experience of Camilla would 
be, it was therfefore wiser to abstain from seeking 
it, and to work out the problem by one's own 
individual lights. 

With elbows propped on the old chintz- 
covered arms of her chair, and eyes exploring the 
fiery caves of a grate as generously roomy as that 
chair. Miss Ransome made pass in carefully 
scanned procession before her mind's eye the 
topics likely to present themselves on the morrow, 
sifting and winnowing the few thoroughly sound 
ones from among the wilderness of subjects likely, 
apparently, if treated with the ease and freedom 
which came natural to her, to lead to her speedy 
expulsion. " Felicity and Tom ? H'm ! doubtful. 
Felicity safe enough ; but Tom ? " 

A process of elimination, conducted with a 
strictness of which this first beginning was an 
example, ended by leaving only three themes 
upon which the seal of complete security could 


be set — the weather, the contents of the news- 
papers, with the exception of the Divorce Court, 
and Jock. Even in his case a rider had to be 
added, that under no circumstances was he to 
lead up to reminiscences of Mimi. But of the 
innumerable multitude of the tabooed, a trio were 
four- lined and three-starred. ' Claire,' her own 
past : especially anything referring to her educa- 
tion, and the demi-monde en bloc. 

Having completed, at a late hour of the night, 
these dispositions for her future guidance, she 
betook herself to a high, wide, and admirable 
bed, while still sighing for a cigarette, and vainly 
hunting for sandwiches and whisky and soda. 

If Bonnybell's conversational infelicities had 
disquieted herself, they had produced a certainly 
not inferior effect upon one at least — and the 
most important — of her two auditors. It was 
not often that Camilla reappeared after retiring 
for the night, but the occasion was one worthy of 
the exceptional, and Edward was not much sur- 
prised by her advent in the smoking-room shortly 
after he had assumed his smoking-jacket, and 
established himself in his accustomed surround- 
ings, to face a problem almost as difficult as that 
which was engaging Miss Ransome's attention 
upstairs. He had rather that his wife had not 
broken through her usual habits, having a dim 
feeling that he was not ready to cbpe with her, 
and a less dim impression that her dishabille was 
unnecessarily unbecoming. 

Camilla was not one of the women who are 


coquettish with their husbands, nor did she use 
any of the little pardonable juggles often in- 
dulged in by women who have wedded men 
greatly their juniors. Rather did she seem de- 
termined to underline and dash the fifteen all too 
obvious years that parted her from Edward. In the 
early days of their married life he had been wont 
gently to remonstrate, but it was now long since 
the hair, ruthlessly torn back from the already too 
high and bare forehead, and the tasteless, laceless 
woollen wrapper, had found and left him anything 
but silent and acquiescent. 

To-night, the forehead seemed more naked 
and the peignoir woollier and drabber than usual. 
Mrs. Tancred did not sit down. Evidently no 
ease of posture could beseem such a crisis. 

" What have we done ? or rather what has 
Felicity done for us ^ " 

He had risen, with habitual politeness, at her 

"Is she worse than you expected .? " 

" I suppose that I am not imaginative. I 
wait for my eye and ear to inform me, before 
I realize things." 

"Your eyef" His judgment disapproved 
the protest, but the impress of BonnybeU's beauty 
upon his brain was too strong and recent for him 
to be able to help it. 

" Oh, I grant you that she is extraordinarily 
pretty ! " — with a reluctant note of pleasure in 
the fact admitted — "prettier than a person has 
any business to be ! " stamping relentlessly upon 
that weakness of hers for physical beauty which 


her husband had always felt to be pathetic. " But 
what a girl ! " 

'■'■Fin de Steele f he asked, snatching at a 
phrase which in 1901 had lost its significance, 
but which he hoped expressed enough disapproba- 
tion to meet the requirements of the case. 

" 1 never could see why the end of a century 
should justify immorality more than the beginning ; 
but what a girl ! what a plane of thought she 
moves on ! what a moral standpoint ! " 

The man expressed no dissent. He could not 
conscientiously take up the cudgels in defence 
of Miss Ransome's system of ethics, and to say 
anything in palliation of it would do her only 

" What a girl ! what a milieu ! Sir Algernon 
Skipton ! and Mademoiselle Lolotte ! — unnam- 
able men and unfortunates ! " 

This last well- seasoned sentence did elicit an 
" Oh ! " but it was as involuntary as the sneeze 
produced by an over-mustarded devil. 

" Well, what else can you call Mademoiselle 
Lolotte, when she is translated into plain English ? " 

Edward did not call Mademoiselle Lolotte 
anything else, though a secret flash of amuse- 
ment crossed his mind at the application of 
the homely word to the magnificent monarch of 
the Parisian Half World, as he had last seen 
her whizzing past in her motor brougham to 

" You must remember that she has not had 
much chance," he said, making his plea with 
temperate carefulness. 


"Who ? Mademoiselle Lolotte or Mademoiselle 
Bonny bell ? " 

The juxtaposition of the two names made him 
unaccountably angry ; but the habit of self- 
government was strong, and did not now fail him. 

" I meant Miss Ransome." 

Something, however smothered, of what he 
was feeling must have pierced through his tone, 
or else her own inward monitor rebuked her, for 
Camilla rejoined in quite a different key — 

" That is true, and you are right to remind me 
of it ; but " — with a relapse into consternation — 
" What a girl ! She speaks of her dead mother 
by her Christian name as Claire ! " 

" You can easily break her of that." 

" She was turned out of a boarding-school in 
Paris ! " 

" She told you so ? " 

" Yes, in answer to a question of mine about 
her education." 

" For misconduct ? " 

" H'm ! She said that the mistress of the 
establishment thought that some other system 
would suit her better. It sounds like a lie, and 
a bad lie, but she looked as if she, were speak- 
ing truth ; indeed, I am almost sure that she 

A memory of the air of perfect veracity 
with which Miss Ransome had dilated to himself 
upon Felicity's immense admiration for his wife's 
form of philanthropy — an admiration of whose 
non-existence she must have been as well aware as 
himself— made it difficult to Edward to endorse 


Camilla's conviction ; but he kept his difficulty, as 
he kept most things, to himself. 

" If she speaks truth," continued his wife, hold- 
ing on apparently with desperation to the one rope 
thrown her by this possibility, "whatever awful 
facts she may tell us about herself — and, poor 
wretch, I suppose that she has not any others to tell 
— there will be hope for her, for us ; there will be 
some basis to go upon ; we shall know where we 

" And even if she does not ? " 
The supposition expressed was drawn from 
him involuntarily, and no sooner uttered than 

" Have you any reason for supposing that she 
does not ? " 

His rejoinder was as disingenuous as his 
protegee's would undoubtedly have been. 

" I ! Already ! How is that possible ? " His 
disclaimer was so completely successful that he 
felt compunction, and yet not so strongly as 
to regret having put his sleuth-hound off the 

" What were you going to say when I 
interrupted you .'' " 

" Oh, nothing of any importance. I was only 
going to suggest that whatever shortcomings you 
may discover in this poor little creature — and 
I dare say there will be plenty of them " (he de- 
spised himself for the concession, which he knew 
to be a bid for his wife's leniency) — " we must 
remember her antecedents ; we must try to make 
allowances for her." 


She stood for a moment silent before him, 
her unbeautiful arms folded in her dull wrapper. 

" Yes," she answered dryly, yet assentingly. 
" Make allowances I It is a manufacture that for 
fifty years I have found phenomenally difficult ; 
but you are right ! one has no business to look 
for morals and manners in the Stews ! " 

He was used to the crudity of her phrases ; 
yet now he turned with a quick movement towards 
the fire to hide the shudder that her old-fashioned 
vernacular, used in its present connection, caused 
him ; but the accurate lyre-shaped clock on the 
chimney-piece above his head had ticked ten times 
before he could face his companion again with a 
controlled smile. 

"And there is one thing, at all events, 
indisputably in her favour." 

« What ? " 

" Jock has taken a fancy to her." 


As Miss Ransome was not aware of having made 
even the ally alluded to by Mr. Tancred overnight, 
it was with a very self-distrustful heart that next 
morning she appeared in the breakfast- room, to 
find her host and hostess waiting for her. It was 
one of the rules of Camilla's old-fashioned code 
of politeness that it is as inadmissible to begin 
breakfast without a guest as to go in to dinner 
before he or she has appeared, and many a sleepy 
visitor had cursed this cruel civility. 

Bonnybell had made what appeared to herself 
superhuman efforts to keep pace with the detest- 
ably unanimous clocks, that apparendy, from 
every recess and landing-place in the house, 
admonished her of the flight of the minutes. 
For Claire and her daughter time had been not. 
Her apprenticeship in Hill Street had been neither 
long nor strict enough to uproot the habits of a 
lifetime; and though she had scamped her hair, 
and entirely omitted to underline her eyes, those 
eyes informed Bonnybell, on the authority of the 
relentlessly ticking accuser that faced her as she 
hurried in, that she was ten minutes late. 

Edward offered her a choice of excellent 


foods, and Camilla suggested that perhaps, for 
the future she would prefer to breakfast in her 
own room. 

She was about to accept joyfully the ofFer, 
when, just in time, some inward monitor — or was 
it a look on Mr. Tancred's face ? — warned her 
that it was sarcastic, and not meant to be taken 

With trembling thanksgiving at having — and 
only by a hair's-breadth — shaved the first pitfall 
set for her, she hastened to change the trend of 
her response. 

" Oh no, thanks, not for worlds ! I think it 
is a horrid habit." 

Once again Edward looked at her, and some- 
thing regretful in his eye made her feel that 
it would have been better to have been content 
with the refusal of Camilla's ironical offer, and 
not to have added the ornamental mendacity at 
the end. 

Having accepted coffee, and then wished that 
she had chosen tea, as being more English and 
less reminiscential of foreign ways. Miss Ransome 
ate her breakfast in a wary but smiling silence. 
Casting about in her mind for a safe and molli- 
fying topic, her eye presently furnished her with 

" What a beautiful portrait ! " she said, pitching 
with inherited bad taste upon the only modern 
picture in the room. 

" It has no business to be here," replied 
Camilla, casting a brief and unadmiring glance 
upon the presumptuous intruder among a goodly 


company of Antonio Mores, Cornelius Janssens, 
Romneys, and Gainsboroughs, " but my parents 
had it hung there, and I have naturally not liked 
to move it." 

The idea of Camilla ever having had parents, 
and not having issued directly from the bosom of 
Primeval Night, was so stupefying to Bonnybell 
that it kept her dumb long enough for Edward 
to throw in, as he did rather hurriedly — 

" It is a portrait of my wife by Graves, given 
her, when she came of age, by the tenants." 

Furnished with this explanation. Miss Ran- 
some's eyes reverted to the object of an admira- 
tion which had originally been more polite than 
founded on conviction, and she chid herself in- 
wardly for her stupidity in not at once recognizing 
that in the large-featured girl, whose sandy hair 
not even a courdy limner had been able to trans- 
mute into gold, lay the germ of the grim woman 
sitting beneath it. It was not yet too late to 
repair her error. 

" Of course, I saw at a glance who it was," 
she exclaimed glibly. 

No comment followed this brave assertion, 
and its utterer thought it safer to go boldly on ; 
but the want of conviction that she felt her state- 
ment had carried flurried her into a question from 
which her more deliberate judgment would have 

" Is there no portrait of you, no pendant to 
this one ? " 

The query was addressed and referred to the 
host, but it was the hostess who answered. 


" At the time that picture was painted, 
Edward was exactly six years old. There is a 
difference of fifteen years between us." 

A slight writhe upon Mr. Tancred's part 
witnessed to the failure of his skin to have 
hardened itself against what yet must be a daily 
pin-prick, and Bonnybell, good-naturedly sorry 
for him, and still more concerned for herself at 
having floundered into so egregious a fault in 
taste, began a precipitate sentence which a look 
from Edward's eyes converted into a for-ever 
unfinished fragment. 

" No one would guess it ! " was the complete 
form of the projected lie, but the phrase never 
got beyond its third word. In fact, Miss 
Ransome left the breakfast-table with not the 
slightest remorse indeed for the fibs, complete 
and inchoate, which she had perpetrated there, 
but with some misgiving as to their success. 

It was contrary to what she would have 
expected, but yet the conviction came solidly 
home to her, as she pinned a veil with careful 
nicety over the chastened mournfulness and un- 
chastened coquetry of her toque, that Camilla 
would be more easy to take in than Edward. 

Miss Ransome was pinning on a veil at ten 
o'clock in the morning, not because her ejection 
had come thus early — though in her own opinion 
unlikelier things might have happened — but 
because it was Sunday morning, and she had been 
told that she was to walk to church with Mr. 
Tancred. There was apparently no question of 
Mrs. Tancred's attending Divine Service. 


" You are not coming with us ? " the girl had 
said with an extremely engaging moue of regret. 
" But I suppose that you do not feel up to it." 

" Up to what ? " 

" To the long morning service." 

"The long morning service lasts exactly one 
hour and ten minutes, and it is not because of its 
length that I do not attend it, but because I am 
not a member of the Church of England." 

" Oh ! " — a little nonplussed by a momentary 
inability to think of a suitable comment ; then, 
with a quick recovery, " Of course 1 So many 
of the oldest families are Catholics." 

" I am not a Roman Catholic either ; but if 
you wait for me to expound my creed you will be 
late for church, and — I do not think that your hat 
is quite straight." The words were snubby, but 
the speaker relaxed into an unintentional smile as 
she evoked them. 

Of course, there was not the slightest founda- 
tion in fact for Bonnybell's expressed regret, but 
there was a certain pleasantness in even the fiction, 
in even the false presentment and elusive shadow 
of a young thing belonging to one, and concerning 
itself about one's comings and goings. 

As to IVIiss Ransome, she skipped off, relieved, 
and with a humorous inward indignation at 
Camilla for not having perceived that her toque's 
racy obliquity was intentional. 

She found her escort waiting for her under 
the stone portico over the hall door, and casting a 
rather questioning eye up to a sky that did not 
answer very reassuringly. 


*' Have you an umbrella ? " he asked. 

Of course she had not, the decorative in 
costume always engaging her attention to the 
exclusion of the useful. They were already a 
couple of hundred yards from the house, and he 
answered her suggestion of returning to fetch 
one by — 

" I am afraid we are already a little late, and 
if it comes on to rain I can hold mine over 

" Of course he hopes that it will rain ! " was 
the inward comment of the innocent creature to 
whom this assurance was addressed, and upon it 
followed a feeling of wonder at Camilla's rash 
confidence, in trusting her husband to a tSte-h-tite 
with herself. 

But Camilla's belief appeared to be going to 
be justified ; for beyond a gravely cautious warn- 
ing now and again to his companion to avoid a 
puddle, or indication of that strip of road which 
the night's rain had left driest, Mr. Tancred 
walked along almost in silence, with the width of 
the elm avenue between them. 

" Perhaps he would think it wrong to make 
love to me going to church ! " thought the wary 
Bonnybell. " Men have such funny scruples. I 
must look out for myself going back." 

It was in a hansom while returning from St. 
Paul's Cathedral that Tom had first told her that 
she could turn him round her little finger. There 
was no sign at present of Edward's executing or 
intending to execute a like gyration, but it was 
always well to be on the safe side, and nothing 


kept dangerous topics better at bay than a little 
safe small talk upon unimpeachable subjects. 

" You always go to church here, 1 suppose ? " 

" Generally. And you ? " 

There was a slight demur. To talk about her 
own past and its habits formed no part of Miss 
Ransome's scheme ; but after a moment's hesita- 
tion she answered — 

" I went to church a good deal with the 

" I cannot at this moment remember who 
Felicity's favourite pope is ? " 

" She did not generally take me with her ; 
she sent me with Tom — Mr. Glanville — instead." 

Bonnybell did not think it necessary to explain 
that towards the close of her unluckily shortened 
stay Felicity had deemed it advisable to alter 
this arrangement. Doubts such as she had already 
felt with regard to what the Tancreds knew or 
did not know of the Hill Street Jiasco hurried her 
into a well-sounding expression of opinion. 

" I like going to church, of all things." 

The turn of the phrase amused him, and, 
against his intention, he showed it a little. 

" Is it a new sensation ? " 

She repented the slip, but her hearer, glanced 
sideways at in fleeting apprehension, looked so 
lenient, that she took heart. 

" We — Claire and I — were not generally up 
in time to go to church in the morning, and we 
mostly played bridge in the afternoon." 

Mr. Tancred gave a slight shudder of thank- 
fulness — if a shudder can ever be thankful — that 


this glimpse into the young stranger's past had 
been revealed to him, instead of to his wife. To 
his thankfulness was added a prick of conscience, 
reminding him that he ought to chide the girl 
for her glib use of the forbidden Christian name. 
But he did not ; and the civil, unrebuking atten- 
tion with which he listened deceived her into fresh 

" Sometimes Sir Algy took us down on his 
motor to Richmond or Maidenhead." 

This time the hearer's shudder was a shudder 

" You liked that ? " 

" It was no question of liking," she answered, 
with a lightning-quick realization that she had 
made a false step, and that for the future " Sir 
Algy" had better remain in the extreme back- 
ground of her conversation. " I had to go ; 
Claire would have been dreadfully hurt if I 
had objected." 

There was a moment's pause. He must brace 
himself to the effort, odious and anomalous as it 
was, to tutor her. 

"Would you mind — I must apologize a 
thousand times for my presumption in making 
the suggestion — but would you mind not speak- 
ing of Lady Ransome by her Christian name ? 
I do not mind it in the least myself" — yielding to 
the relief of an emphatic assertion — " but it might 
shock some of these strait-laced people down here. 
I am not sure " — very reluctantly — " that my wife 
would like it." 

" I am sure she would not," replied the object 


of this rebuke, with a great candour, which would 
have disarmed her admonisher, if he had ever 
been armed. " In fact, I saw it by her manner 
last night. Of course, I ought not to call my 
mother ' Claire,' but it slipped out. The habit of 
a lifetime, you know. Well, * C'est plus fort que 
moi ! 

" Such a long lifetime, too ! " returned he, 
with a gentle mocking of her absurd air of 

" I should have been more on my guard 
with Mrs. Tancred," continued she, in anxious 
explanation ; " but with you I fancied it did not 

He found a rejoinder to this speech difficult. 
He ought to have conveyed to her that he had no 
wish to be set on any different plane of intimacy 
with her from his wife, nor the least intention of 
being drawn into conniving behind Camilla's back 
at what he knew that she disapproved. But long 
before he had found, even approximately, a form 
into which to cast this necessary snub, they had 
reached their destination. The church, standing 
on a little eminence above the slow midland river 
that slid through the park, was, from its small 
size and original destination, rather a chapel to 
the great house than a parish church. 

" Is the music good .'' and do we come out 
before the sermon ? " asked his charge, whispering. 

He had to reply in the negative to both 
questions, and the slight but amusing twist that 
she gave her features on receiving his answer 
made him not as alive as he ought to have been 


to the knowledge that she would not have dared 
to make that grimace In Camilla's presence. 

The Tancreds had a small side gallery, 
entered by a private door in the church, set apart 
for them, where for generations they had wor- 
shipped In comfortable apartness, owners and 
guests — with a superior view of the congregation 
— In front, and servants ranged In decorous rows 

To-day, as Edward had foreseen, they were late, 
and — the good old days of waiting for the 
entrance of the " Wicked Man " by the parson 
being gone — it was upon an assemblage of bent 
heads that Miss Bonnybell's cautiously roving 
eye alighted. What a sparse congregation ! and 
what an immense space separated her from Edward 
when each was ensconced in his and her distant 
corner of the long seat. That space was obvi- 
ously Intended to be occupied by a numerous 
progeny — Edward and Camilla's family. She 
gave an irreverent Inward chuckle at the thought 
of a row of prim little boys and bony girls 
fashioned in Camilla's image. 

Then a panic seized her. Was a visible smile, 
produced by this tickling Idea, showing itself on 
her face, to be seen now that everybody was 
standing up again ? At once she composed her 
features to an expression of devout melancholy, 
which, being — as she had not a glass whereby to 
regulate the amount — a little overdone, made 
Edward pityingly reflect, when he occasionally 
glanced at her during the sermon, that, despite 
that playful gaiety of disposition which broke out 


every now and then, her terrible past had written 
its name indelibly upon her tiny features. 

Those veracious indicators allowed themselves 
to relax a little from their pious gloom, as their 
owner lightly trod her homeward way, and cast 
about for something suitable to say regarding the 
service. If she could also obtain a little useful 
information by the way no harm would be done. 

" What a dear little church ! " 

" Yes, it is rather an interesting specimen of 

" Built in the time of Edward the Confessor, 
did you say ? " 

" Well, not quite " — with a smile. 

" And what a nice congregation ! " 

" I am glad you think so. But why did they 
strike you as so particularly nice ? " 

She thought it was a question that he need not 
have put, but took pains with her reply. 

" Oh, they looked so homely, and attentive, 
and — and — un-smdLVt, I liked them so much 
better than the London congregation I am used 
to. Felicity's ' Pope,' as you call him, has all the 
mondaines and demi-mondaines too at his feet." 

" But I thought you did not sit under Felicity's 
Oracle ; I thought you told me that you usually 
went to church with Tom." 

Miss Ransome wished, with a momentary im- 
patience, that her companion's memory for her 
statements was not so good, as it might lead to 
inconveniences in the long run, but she answered 

readily — 

" Latterly, Felicity usually took me with her. 


Tom often had a cold or an engagement on 
Sunday morning." 

She laughed ofF further inquiries with her 
airy cynicism, and having the Ijest reasons for pre- 
ferring the role of questioner to questioned, began 
an indirect catechism concerning the congregation, 
whose motive Mr. Tancred did not suspect. 

" It all seemed so patriarchal ; everybody looked 
like tenants and farmers, and people of that 
class. I suppose your neighbours have churches 
of their own to go to ? " 

"John Drake occasionally bicycles over to 
Morning Service." 

"John Drake ? " She looked across the road at 
him with a sudden alertness of interest. Did John 
Drake sound like the name of the South African 
millionaire who was to pilot her out of her present 
slough of dependence and manoeuvring to the 
odious but indispensable anchorage of marriage } 
" Who is John Drake ? Is it very benighted of 
me never to have heard of him } " 

The desire to keep his boots clean stiU ap- 
parently held in check the desire that Edward 
must experience to be near her, and it was across 
the width of the drive that his answer reached her. 

" Not in the least ; it would have been odd if 
you had. He is agent to a man who has a property 
near here." 

An agent ! Miss Ransome had a distinct sen- 
sation of disappointment. But agent to whom f 
Perhaps her chance of promotion was only set one 
step further off. 

" I dare say he will turn up to luncheon to-day. 


My wife is always glad when he does. She thinks 
he has not enough to eat at home." 

" Why has not he enough to eat at home ? " 

" I dare say he has ; but Camilla is convinced 
that when all the ten children are helped, there is 
not much left of the leg of mutton." {T'en 
children !) " Poor chap ! " continued Edward ; 
then, checking his expression of compassion, 
"though I do not know why I pity him. He 
probably gets quite as much out of life as the 
rest of us " — with a smile. " He is a fair shot, and 
he used to play the 'cello a bit, but he has given 
that up ; and I think that is nearly all about him." 

" How monstrous of anybody to have ten 
children ! " she said with the shocked accent of 
a philanthropist hearing of a great crime. 

He did not feel inclined to discuss the subject 
with her ; and his silence recalled her to the con- 
sciousness that the turn of her phrase was not that 
of the jeune fille. 

" Agent to whom, did you say ? " 

" I do not think I did say ; he is agent to Sir 
Frederick Milward." 

Ah, now we are beginning to get at some- 
thing more promising ! Sir Frederick Milward ! 
— a well-acred baronet, perhaps, or preferably an 
industrial millionaire, knighted for judicious hos- 
pitalities in high places. 

" Is he nice ? " 

" Oh, fairly ; but they are scarcely ever here. 
His wife is a neurotic ; and the place — it is a 
dreary barrack at the best of times — is empty for 
ten months of the year." 


In profound discouragement, Miss Ransome 
desisted from her queries. What a disgusting 
neighbourhood ; everybody married, eating gory 
gigots h I'eau, and breeding like rabbits ! 

At luncheon Mrs, Tancred took away her 
guest's appetite for the moment by asking her what 
the sermon was about, but dealt more gently 
than might have been expected with her total 
inability to reply, letting her off with the ironical 
hope that she had enjoyed her nap, and adding 
with that habitual grim justice which sentenced 
herself as uncompromisingly as others — 

"You might fairly ask why, if I wished to 
know, I did not myself go to hear it ? " 

" I should be very much interested if you 
cared to tell me," replied the culprit, with meek 

" I do not think you would," rejoined the other, 
bluntly. " Anyhow, I have a creed, though I am 
quite sure that you would not make head or tail 
of it." 

Bonnybell received with joyful acquiescence 
this unflatteringly couched reprieve from a lesson 
in theology ; and without the least inward or 
outward murmur the announcement that Camilla 
would not be visible before teatime. Later on she 
learned that it was the prosecution of her mys- 
terious cult that kept Mrs. Tancred in austere 
study and Stoic meditation through the long 
hours. Though her husband did not share in 
her solitary devotions, it at first looked as if he 
were going to be as invisible as she. 

A sense of desperation laid hold of the young 


stranger on finding herself left alone, with the 
whole house, rich in artistic and historic interest, 
it is true, to range over, but with, in all pro- 
bability, not a living soul to exchange a word 
with for two and a half mortal hours. She 
filched some violets and a tube-rose out of a 
vase, and pinned them upon her smart black- 
ness, but she had to stand on tip-toe to get a 
good sight of herself in the beautiful Venetian 
mirror, evidently hung with a view to its own 
becomingness, not for the convenience of "rash 
gazers ; " and the whole mancEuvre, though she 
prolonged it by practising a variety of expres- 
sions that might come in useful by-and-by upon 
her face, did not occupy five minutes. 

From among the wealth of books, new and 
old, that strewed the table, she picked up one, whose 
yellow paper back " faisait esp6rer des choses," 
only to throw it down in disgust, since a very 
slight skimming of its pages proved it to belong 
to the literature of the jeune fille ; and where a 
French novel is innocent, it is innocent with a 

She walked to one of the long windows. 
Should she go out? She decided not. Rain- 
charged clouds hung over the ruddy trees of the 
park. There was not the slightest chance in those 
miles of walks, whose beginnings she saw stretch- 
ing hopelessly away in their odious privacy, of 
meeting any one not belonging to the place, 
and if you had to endure boredom it might as 
well be a dry and warm as a wet and cold one. 
She tried the pictures. They were all hopelessly 


good, some dusky, some mellow, glowing and 
glooming from the harmonious dull-green brocade 
of their background. Why on earth didn't 
they sell them, now that there was a " boom " in 
these dingy old masters, and hang something 
worth looking at on their walls? Her mind 
reverted admiringly to the canvases — how un- 
like these ! — that had adorned " Le Nid," Claire's 
villa at Monaco. 

Miss Ransome had not considered all her 
mother's methods commendable, but surely her 
taste in pictures was perfect. Where had they 
all gone to now, those charming specimens of 
modern French art — " Le Bain," " La Surprise " ? 

Her disparaging contemplation of the picture 
at which she was staring was broken in upon by 
the voice of Edward. 

" It is hung too high," he said, not guessing 
the spirit in which she was gazing. " I told 
Camilla so, but she is not fond of change." 

" People of her age seldom are, I suppose," 
returned Bonnybell, radiant at her interrupted 
solitude, but at once feeling that she had said the 
wrong thing. 

" We have always thought it a Dierick Bouts. 
Camilla's grandfather brought it from Bruges," 
he went on, in a tone that seemed to put him 
further away from her than his first remark had 
done. " Of course, when we sent it to a Winter 
Exhibition at Burlington House, the critics 
pronounced it a copy, but we took leave to 
disbelieve them." 

"I am sure you were quite right," rejoined 


she, with outward emphasis and an inward wonder 
why any one should care to discuss the paternity 
of such a grotesque old croute. 

Apparently her acting was all too good, and 
took him in. 

" Since you are fond of pictures," he said, 
" perhaps you will let me show you some rather 
good portraits in the morning-room. They are 
not all by any very well-known masters ; but 
though their interest is chiefly historical, they are 
not badly painted." 

She acquiesced gratefully. Any change from 
her late forlorn condition of being thrown on her 
own resources must be for the better, and if she 
pretended to be interested In his old daubs, she 
might be more likely to retain his company. 

They had reached the morning-room, and 
Tancred held back the heavy curtain from the 
nearest window, to let a larger measure of the 
niggard daylight of a November afternoon fall 
upon the object he was exhibiting. 

" That is Sir Thomas Overbury ; it was given 
by him to a cousin of his who married an ancestor 
of my wife's. That" — indicating another portrait 
— " is Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset. There is a 
grim irony in hanging them cheek by jowl, isn't 
there .? " 

"Very grim," returned she, and called in- 
wardly upon her gods for help in enabling her to 
disguise how little she knew why it was grim, or 
why there was any question of Irony. 

" And that is Somerset's wife " — pointing to a 
good female portrait by Van Somers. " I always 


think she has such a deceptive face ; one would 
never read her story in it, would one ? " 

« Never." 

This was perfectly true, since Bonnybell had 
not the foggiest notion of what the illustrious 
murderess's story was. 

" It was taken when she was Lady Essex." 

" Oh yes, of course." 

The " of course " was redundant, and a 
mistake. It made him look at her in slight 
surprise, and with that look dawned upon him 
the fact that never before had Miss Ransome 
" heard tell " of any one of the three notorious 
personages to whose effigies he had just introduced 


After that, being a merciful man, Edward let 
her get off the historico-artistic gridiron, upon 
which he had been innocently grilling her. He 
showed her no more pictures, nor, indeed, any- 
thing else except his smoking-room, in which she 
exhibited a lively, and this time perfectly un- 
feigned interest, and where her intelligent in- 
quiries as to the brand of cigars favoured by him, 
and her discriminating knowledge of the subject 
in contrast to her abysmal ignorance of the former 
ones, taught him that hers had not been a past of 
mere cigarettes. She had nourished a faint hope 
that he might have invited her to share a friendly 
whiff there and then, but it was clearly not to be. 
Instead, he gently ejected her. " Of course, the 
old camel would smell it," said the disappointed 
young creature, inwardly feeling a sensible relief 
in this ingeniously insulting play upon the name 
of her latest benefactress. 

Edward had escorted her back to the very spot 
where he had found her, opposite the calumniated 
Dierick Bouts ; and with despair she saw, or 
thought she saw, in his eye an imminent intention of 
leaving her. What could she do to arrest him ? 



Rush at once into some entanglingly interesting 
subject which would rob him of that wish to 
escape which it was so incomprehensible that he 
could ever have nourished ? Ask him why he 
married Camilla ? 

She was saved from a remedy which would 
certainly in its results have proved worse than 
the disease, by the object of her solicitude. 

" I am afraid," he said, looking first com- 
passionately at her and then rather helplessly 
round the room, as if in puzzled search among 
its wealth of beautiful objects and inviting books 
for something capable of amusing her — " I am 
afraid that you will be very dull all by yourself" 

The inevitable civil falsehood — inevitable, at 
least, to the ever-lying Bonnybell, followed. 

" Oh no, I love being by myself." 


" Yes, really ; that is to say " — in terror that 
he might be obtuse enough to believe her — " that 
is to say, I love it generally ." 

The implication that she did not love it on 
this particular occasion was so piteously apparent, 
that humanity forced him to throw a rope to her. 

" What do you think about going out ? " 

She glanced through the window. It would 
have been much more consonant with her views 
of the right way of spending Sunday to have 
sat blowing delicate clouds through her nose and 
picking his brains over the smoking-room fire, 
but that was a blue rose. 

" What do you recommend ? " she asked with 
a smile that looked persuadable. 


" Isn't it rather rash ever to recommend any- 
thing to anybody ? " 

Mr. Tancred's propositions were mostly put 
interrogatively. He had not enough value for 
his own opinion to assert anything with dogma- 
tism, having fifteen years earher set up so robust 
a self-contempt as still showed no signs of wearing 

"Be rash, then." She was still smiling 
anxiously, divided between a lurking fear of mud 
and a horror of solitude. 

"I wonder," he suggested, still tentatively, 
and eying doubtfully the towny elegance of her 
garb, "whether you would care to walk with 
me as far as what we call the Dower House ? " 

" Is that where you keep your dowagers ? " 
she asked playfully, but with an inward mis- 
giving as to the proposed treat being "good 

" It is where Camilla's people used to keep 
them," replied he, with that careful dissevering 
of himself, which Bonnybell so often afterwards 
noticed, from his wife's possessions ; " but as she 
is the last of the Tancreds, it will not be needed 

"The last of the Tancreds!" repeated she, 
with an accent of surprise. " I thought that 
Tancred was your name .'' " 

"No," he answered in that ill-at-ease voice 
with which he — and that as rarely as might be — 
alluded to his marriage, " I gave mine up when 
I married." 

"I hope she made it worth your while," 


was the worldly wise reflection of the listener ; 
but on her sweet little face appeared only the ex- 
pression of an intuitive sympathy. The subject 
was evidently not a much-relished one ; and yet 
it would be disagreeable to her companion to see 
that she had discovered the fact ; it must be 
gently glided away from. 

" So I am to be taken to see an empty house 
— four bare walls ? " she pouted, with a charming 
protrusion of her nether lip. 

He laughed, in sheer irrational pleasure at 
the prettiness of the contortion. 

"On the contrary, the friends to whom 
Camilla has lent it while their own house is being 
rebuilt find themselves inconveniently thick upon 
the ground." 

" Are there ten of them ? and do they live 
upon gigots h Veau ? " cried she, alluding to what 
he had told her of the fiill-quivered land-agent 
on their way home from church. 

"No, there are only three young Aylmers — 
only two at home, unless Toby came back last 

"Toby? Who is Toby?" 

" Toby is the precious only son." 

That decided her. "I should like it of all 
things ! " she cried. " May I come as I am, or 
must I make myself frightful, ^ FAnglaise f " She 
held her arms straight down a little way from 
her sides and " invited inspection." 

" I think, if you go as you are, the brambles 
in the wood will not leave you many of those 
jingly things." 


"The wood!" repeated she, with a sudden 
clouding of the brow. 

Being much more innocent-minded than she, 
and accustomed to much more cleanly company, 
he had not the dimmest suspicion that his mention 
of the harmless coppice in question had re-aroused 
her misgivings. They had been almost com- 
pletely lulled by his demeanour hitherto ; but 
had he been acting all this while ? Had his cool 
and distant friendliness — so improbable in the face 
of all her experience of men — been assumed only 
to lead up to this ominous wood ? It could be 
safely said that with not one of Claire's and her 
own former intimates would she have for an 
instant thought of trusting herself in a shady 

The thought that his apparently harmless 
proposition implied an intended enterprise of 
the usual sort inspired her with no particular 
disgust. He would only be acting after his kind. 
All men were alike. This formula, from which 
she had hitherto had no cause to make any ex- 
ception, covered with its contemptuous generality 
her whole masculine acquaintance, actual and 

" Well, does the wood frighten you ? " he 
asked, with a slight and Riost unsuspicious laugh 
at the perturbation and doubt written in her 
face. "What do you think will happen to you 
m it r 

If she answered him truly — which, to do her 
justice, was the last thing that she had ever any 
temptation to do — he would probably think it 


necessary to pretend indignation, and go off in a 
huiF without her, so she temporized. 

" It only just struck me that possibly I might 
be out too late ; that Mrs. Tancred might want 

"Camilla never wants any one on Sunday 
afternoon," returned he, with a sort of compas- 
sionate amusement at the idea of his wife ever 
" wanting," or doing anything but groan under, the 
society of her litde mcubus ; " and besides, it was 
her own suggestion." 

There was no more to be said, and, remark- 
ing to herself in derisive gaiety, that "There 
is no fool like an old fool," Miss Ransome 
skipped off to make grudging modifications in 
her costume. 

"Toby would have preferred me as I was," 
was her final verdict on her own reflected image ; 
" but I have no doubt that I am good enough, 
and too good for him, as I am." 

The Dower House stood in the park, sundered 
by a mere green mile from the great house, so 
that the departed dowagers had been able clearly 
to view the scene of their ended importance, 
and to contrast their successors' methods un- 
favourably with their own. It was of such roomy 
proportions as to suggest the idea that it had been 
planned by some foreseeing lady, providing can- 
nily for her own days of deposition. Not having 
been porticoed and stone-faced, as its parent- 
building had been in the days when you were 
compelled to inhabit a sham Grecian temple, or 
forfeit your self-respect, it retained those modest 


Tudor charms of old red brick and twisted 
chimney - stacks, which, fashion having happily- 
wheeled them round again into favour, might 
chance to remain unmutilated during our little 

The dreaded " wood " was nothing more than 
the skirt of a large covert, and was easily traversed 
in five minutes. Although a cautious inquiry as to 
its length had elicited this fact, Miss Ransome 
quickened her pace as she entered the shade, 
which the still adhering leaves on the trees, and 
the quickly lessening daylight of a November 
afternoon, rendered thick and almost more than 

Her companion noted with innocent surprise 
her nervous haste, and again asked her what she 
was afraid of, adding, with perfect unsuspicious- 
ness that he himself was the cause of her fear — 

"There is rather a boggy place just ahead 
of us in the path ; I must have it looked to. 
Shall I give you a hand ? " 

She refused softly, but with such decision 
as provided him with a lazy sense of entertainment 
at the independence of her spirit, which was only 
equalled apparently by her absolute indilFerence 
to, and unconsciousness of, any of the sights and 
sounds of Nature. There was nothing very strik- 
ing, it is true, in a Berkshire park — "as flat as a 
denial or a pancake " — on a winter afternoon, and 
he should not have been surprised that the lighdy 
speaking voices of birds, whose songs were long 
since over, should hit unnoticed her sophisticated 
ear ; but that the glorious colours which still 


stained the noble trees, that the wonderful eye- 
heam which the sky — smoke-coloured all day- 
shot from under lifted lids in good night to 
whitening grass and copper and rust-tinted 
bracken, should be apparently entirely invisible 
to her, gave him a slight shock. He pointed out 
to her one superb effect of interlacing tints, but 
did not repeat the experiment. 

She was too civil and too anxious to please 
not to respond with a perfunctory superlative 
" Yes, too delightful ! " but in a moment had 
dropped back into her chatter about people, a 
chatter which circled round the family to whom 
she was on her way to be introduced, and which 
contained exhaustive, though circuitous, inquiries 
as to why " Toby " was " precious." She must 
know before his presentation to her why and to 
what extent "Toby" was "precious." Was it 
merely the usual dull British adoration of the 
solitary male of an over-feminine family which 
made him so ? Or was it that he was heir to 
something so considerable as to render his life of 
importance to his family stem ? Also, why were 
they rebuilding their house ? 

By the time she had reached the nail-studded 
oak front door of the Dower House, both 
questions were set at rest in her mind. The 
house was being rebuilt, because, through the 
carelessness of a housemaid, it had regrettably 
been burnt down ; happily, however, the original 
plans had been found, and it was being rebuilt, 
stone for stone, as Sir John Vanbrugh had first 
erected it. 


Bonnybell had never heard of Sir John Van- 
brugh as either architect or playwright, but she 
ejaculated fervently, " What a blessing ! " and 
reckoning up mentally the sum of the information 
given her, said to herself, with a thankful heart, as 
she followed the servant into the hall, that Toby 
was well worth her nicest attention. 


" oh comme je regrette mon bras si dodu, 
Ma jambe bien faite et le temps perdu." 

The planting of Miss Ransome's siege-train could 
not be at once taken in hand, as a rapid gallop of 
the eye over the unknown persons that the room 
contained showed that not one of them answered 
to the description which she had extracted from 
Mr, Tancred, with many precautions in the 
manner of doing it, of Toby. She made out a 
mother at once, and an elder sister, and an elder 
sister's friend, though at first not quite sure 
which was which of the two latter, and a couple 
of elderly men. 

As the electric light was not turned on, and 
the oaky gloom of the room was lit by only a fire 
that, though generous, was unequal in its distri- 
bution of light. Miss Ransome did not imme- 
diately realize the additional presence of a large 
female figure in outdoor dress, pelotonnie in an 
armchair in a corner. The sight of a motor-car 
at the hall door had shown that there must be 
other callers besides themselves, but the girl had 
forgotten the unimportant fact. It was brought 
back to her with a jump. 



She was halfway through her presentation to 
the family, executed in her very nicest jeune fille 
manner, when officious servants, turning buttons, 
flooded the room with light and set her staringly 
face to face with her past. It stood opposite to 
her in the shape of the large dim figure — alas ! 
no longer dim, but revealed in bounteous outline, 
pigeon-egg pearls, ruddled hair and sable toque, 
which at the sound of her name precipitated itself 
out of its chair to look at her. 

" Bonnybell Ransome ! Is it possible that it is 
Bonnybell Ransome — poor CI — oh, of course ! " — 
recalled by the chic woe of the daughter's hat to 
the fact of the extinction of that former acquaint- 
ance, of whose name nobody, apparently, not even 
Lady Tennington, dared now pronounce more 
than the two first letters. 

For a moment — since this was a contingency 
which the most foreseeing could not have guarded 
against — Bonnybell stood mute and aghast. 
Was there ever such a stroke of ill luck ? Flora 
Tennington, who knew all about everything ! 
Flora Tennington, so intimately associated with 
poor Claire's disastrous career — with all but the 
last year, that is ! That last year had choked even 
Flora Tennington off ! She had held on as long 
as she could — one must say that for her — and she 
had tried, yes, tried hard to stem the flood of 
those dreadful champagnes and brandies and 
chlorals. Her failure had been the occasion of 
the final rupture, and then she, too, had dis- 
appeared. She was not a bad friend, to do her 
justice. She had gone on speaking to the 



unnamable Sir Algy long after he had sunk quite 
out of social sight ; but, all the same, what extra- 
ordinary ill luck that she should have reappeared 
in these surroundings ! She had always had the 
character of being bonne enfant, but she would be 
more than human if she resisted the temptation to 
tell all she knew — and all was such a very great deal, 
even without that last year — of poor Claire ! And 
if she did, what, pray, would become of Toby ? 

It did not take more than five seconds for this 
chain of actual and possible misfortune to dart 
through Bonnybell's brain, nor for her to recover 
her presence of mind. 

" What a delightful surprise ! " she said with 
a sweet blush of pleasure, holding out a glad litde 
black hand. 

The rejoinder was not what might have been 

"Do not put out your hand," cried Lady 
Tennington, precipitately ; " she'll fly at you if 
you do. Lisa never allows any one to touch 
me." If this were true, Lisa must in past years, 
if report lied not, have had her paws full. 

A low growl, a glimpse of age-whitened 
muzzle, and a struggling chestnut-coloured body 
revealed the presence, under her mistress's arm, of 
a small dachshund. Here was another voice from 
the past. 

"Lisa ! " cried Bonnybell, hardily putting out 
her hand to stroke the little angry, faithful head. 
" Is Lisa still alive .? " 

There was an affectionate inflexion in her 
voice, which Edward, though listening with one 


whole ear to his hostess, caught, and recognized 
as an unknown note. Art was non-existent for 
her, Nature invisible to her, but she understood 
and appreciated dogs. 

" And why should not she be alive, pray ? " 
inquired Lisa's owner, sharply, her sensitiveness 
about her dog's age being even superior to that 
which she manifested with regard to her own. 
Then, with a reverting to her original key, " And 
what, in the name of Fortune, my dear child, 
brings you here ? " 

The little buzz of greeting was over, followed 
by a momentary silence among the rest of the 
party. Not a soul in the room but must have 
noticed the exaggerated emphasis on the personal 
pronoun, and have drawn the inevitable infer- 
ence that to meet Miss Ransome in a respect- 
able house was an experience that must take 
away any one's breath. The wings of the not 
yet seen Toby were already spread for flight. 
Who could have anticipated that the zgg of that 
bright prospect would be addled almost before 
it was laid ? These thoughts were coursing 
through Bonnybell's brain, even while she was 
murmuring her answer in a tone calculated in 
its hesitating meekness to deprecate any further 
showing up. 

" I am staying with Mr. and Mrs. Tancred. 
They are good enough to let me pay them a little 

The rejoinder was a rather discomfited 
" Humph 1 " a humph which had no need to 
have any light thrown upon it for the rest 


of the company, but which was interpreted only 
later to Bonnybell, when she learned that Camilla 
had never shown any sign of a knowledge of 
Lady Tennington's presence in the neighbour- 
hood, nor, large as was her circumference despite 
French corsets and massage, any appearance of 
seeing her, when they had met on neutral 

There was a slight pause ; the matron 
digesting the unintended snub, and the maid 
quakingly asking herself what she could say 
liext best calculated to stop the flow of Flora's 
reminiscences ! Rescue came from an unexpected 

" Miss Ransome is very much understating 
our hopes," said Edward, in a slow voice of 
measured courtesy, through which any one who 
knew him well could trace some sort of smothered 
exasperation piercing ; " my wife and I count upon 
her to stay with us indefinitely." 

Had he already caught from his young 
■protigie the faculty of glib lying? He knew 
perfectly that he was saying the thing that was 
not ; that there was nothing in the world which 
Camilla ambitioned less than to have her present 
guest as a permanent inmate ; but the impulse 
of partisanship of bucklering one so exposed to 
the world's cruel shafts conquered the lifelong 
instincts of veracity in an almost invariably truthful 
man. He was rather shocked when he realized 
what he had done ; yet he did not repent. His 
own espousing her cause would be worse than 
useless to her, but his wife's, with her fifty years 


of almost awful rectitude behind her, was a name 
to conjure with. 

Flora gave a little chuckle — not ill-natured, 
for she was never ill - natured, but helplessly- 
tickled at the idea of the rigid Pharisee who 
had cut her for thirty years taking to her bony 
bosom the progeny of poor Claire — poor Claire, 
of all people ! 

" Then I hope we shall see something of 
each other," she said bravely, ignoring her own 
relations, or rather want of relations, with the 
Tancred family. " I will send the motor over 
for you. You used to like motoring in the days 
when poor Al " 

She broke off. Not even she, with all her 
social courage and no character worth speaking of 
to lose, dared pronounce more than the first half 
of the submerged one's name. 

Before Bonnybell could frame a judicious 
answer to this discomfiting invitation, her hostess 
came to her aid. She had not caught Miss 
Ransome's name with any precision, mumbled 
as names always are mumbled by English people 
on introduction, and perhaps even more so on the 
part of Edward than was usually the case, from 
the consciousness that it was not a patronymic 
warranted to ensure a welcome for its owner. 
Mrs. Aylmer only saw a remarkably pretty 
and evidently very young girl looking confused 
and miserable, though trying with the greatest 
civility to hide it under the avalanche of Lady 
Tennington's questions and invitations. Of course, 
a decent girl could not possibly be allowed, and 


evidently had no wish, to accept the latter ; and, 
being a warm-hearted woman with a motherly 
heart going out to the slender black figure 
standing to be baited by the shocking old 
demi-repy whom she so unaccountably seemed 
to know, the hostess hastened to extricate her 
from the tight place in which the poor child 
found herself. 

" I wonder," she said, looking kindly at the 
young stranger, "whether you would care to join 
the schoolroom tea ? My children like it so very 
much better than ours." 

" I should love it ! " replied Bonnybell, 
fervently, throwing an eyebeam of unmistak- 
able gratitude out of her enormous eyes at 
her saviour, and thinking with intense inward 
self-congratulation upon how admirably in the 
teeth of hideous difficulties she must have played 
the jeune fille this time. Oh, if she could only 
keep it up ! If only she could have seen Flora 
Tennington safe into her motor before her own 
exit ! could — failing that — have had any trust in 
Flora's reticence ! 

It remained to be seen what the schoolroom 
had to show. Its possibilities, at all events, could 
not include another Flora, nor could any of the 
disreputable men whose images rose with such 
unwelcome vividness upon Miss Ransome's mind, 
recalled by the sight of Lady Tennington, by any 
possibility have crossed the scholastic threshold 
on whose other side a governess with a pince-nez 
and an assured manner, and a tall diffident girl in 
a pigtail presently greeted her. The third person's 


salutation could scarcely be called a greeting, 
as it consisted merely in his standing up, stop- 
ping eating quince jam, and looking thoroughly 
annoyed at having to do either. The governess 
revealed herself on presentation as Miss Barnacre, 
and the leggy young Miss as Meg. 

In the case of the third person, presentation, 
though it took place duly, was superfluous. If 
induction had not, intuition would have taught 
Miss Ransome to recognize in the sullen con- 
sumer of interrupted jam the magnet that had 
guided her tender feet through the puddly park of 
a November twilight. He conquered his indigna- 
tion at her intrusion enough to set her a chair 
at the command of Miss Barnacre, who followed 
up the attention by asking her a series of patroniz- 
ing questions, adapted to the intellect of a child 
of four years. Miss Barnacre was of the new 
type of instructress, that type which sometimes 
makes its employer privily regret its down-trodden 
predecessor, victim to melancholy and indigestion ; 
that new type which, fortified by all the rites of 
Girton, condescends to the parents of its pupils, 
chaffs and lectures their brothers, and inspires 
adoring awed friendships in their elder sisters ; 
that type which differs as much from the early 
Victorian one as does the pert houri in " bang " 
and streamers who commands at our sick-bed side 
from the classic figure of Mrs. Gamp. 

Bonnybell responded with meek submissive- 
ness to the elementary catechism so glaringly 
adapted to her comprehension, and consoled her- 
self for the time wasted upon the governess by 


the philosophic reflection that she might gain 
more by being seen and heard in the case of so 
obvious a cub as Toby, than by being brought 
into more direct colloquy with him. ] 

Miss Barnacre interrupted her own question- 
ings at last, to give a brusque order to the young 
man to ring the bell, and it was now the turn of 
the eldest daughter of the house. 

" Lady Tennington is an old friend of yours ? " 
she asked quite pleasantly, and with a curiosity 
that was well within the limits of the courteous 
and permissible ; yet in which the young stranger 
divined an inevitable surprise. 

Her answer must be cautious, yet not hesi- 
tating. To repudiate intimacy with Flora would 
be — shabby ? — yes, but that might pass at a pinch, 
but it would also be useless. 

" She was very kind to me when I was a 
child," answered the dear little voice, with a depre- 
cating gratitude in its tones ; " and she was at 
school with my grandmother." 

" With your grandmother ! " repeated Miss 
Aylmer, in a key of rather gratified discovery. 

" Oh, then she must be much older than " 

The speaker broke off; but it was not difficult 
for the hearer to supply the missing " than she 

" My grandmother would not be so very old 
if she were alive," replied Bonnybell ; " Claire 
was only thirty-four when she died." 

The name slipped out headlong, all Miss Ran- 
some's wariness being unfortunately on duty in 
another direction. Every one looked puzzled, not 


having the slightest idea as to who " Claire " was, 
nor how her early death aiFected the age of the 
young stranger's grandmother. 

" Lady Tennington is very bien conservh, isn't 
she ? " continued the girl, hurrying away from the 
too-late-realized blunder ; " and though she looks 
a good deal made up, it is really more face massage 
than anything else. We — I know her masseuse ! 
We often employed her. She was the best in 

There was a slight silence, as of a company 
taken aback. Every eye involuntarily rested on 
Bonnybell's lovely bloom, each looker asking him- 
self or herself distrustfully whether it and the 
exquisite seventeen-year-old contour were due to 
mysterious French rubbings and unguents 1 

" She has not been very long in the neigh- 
bourhood ; we know her only very slightly," said 
the elder Miss Aylmer, presently, with an air of 
reserve, and the subject was felt to be closed. 
The never-to-be-defeated governess at once re- 
placed it by another. 

" You walked here ? " 


"Are you fond of walking ? " 

" Oh yes, very, very fond." 

Of course, it was not true ; but equally of course 
Toby would think the better of her if he could 
picture her stumping through wet vegetables by 
his side. Her ideas of all sport, except racing, 
were of the vaguest. 

" Mrs. Tancred is inaccessible on Sunday 
afternoon } " 


" I believe that she does not like to be dis- 
turbed ; she shuts herself up to study." 

" She always interests me," said Miss Barn- 
acre, as if making an announcement that was 
advantageous to its object. "There is something 
stimulating to the curiosity in those resolutely 
solitary thinkers ; but I cannot quite make her 
out. I used to think that she had leanings towards 

" Had she ? " returned Bonnybell, faintly, 
asking herself, with a sick heart, whether Hegelian- 
ism — whatever it might be — was one of the pro- 
perties that no jeune fille Men ilevee should be 
without. Let it be what else It might, it was 
certainly a word of ill omen, for no sooner was 
it pronounced than Toby pushed back his chair 
with such cruel violence that it fell over back- 
wards, and left the room, shutting the door noisily 
behind him. 

" In some respects I fancy she is nearer Esoteric 
Buddhism," continued the governess, fixing her 
unescapable eye upon the victim of her horrible 
suppositions. "I must tackle her upon the 

" I am sure that she will be delighted," mur- 
mured Miss Ransome, with the greatest outward 
demureness, and a malicious inward wish that 
her tormentor would put her threat into execu- 
tion and " tackle " Camilla. There could be little 
doubt as to the issue of the combat. Her own 
ardent personal wish now was to escape before re- 
vealing some damning and irretrievable ignorance. 

" Do you think that Mr. Tancred is waiting 


for me ? " she asked, turning, with pretty defer- 
ence, to Miss Aylmer, whom she thought much 
more worth propitiating than the pushing pro- 
pounder of odious riddles. 

" You need not be in any hurry," replied the 
other, with a pleasant smile, that yet seemed to 
have a touch of superiority in its deeper know- 
ledge of Edward's habits. " Mr. Tancred always 
pays us a good long visit on Sunday afternoon ; 
but if you had rather go back to the hall " 

Bonnybell's hesitation was of but two seconds' 
duration. Barnacre and Hegelianism, or Flora 
and Sir Algy ? If these were her only two 
alternatives, unpleasant as was the first, it was 
undoubtedly the least objectionable of the two. 

" I am very happy here," she said with soft 
civility, " if I am not in the way." 

She glanced appealingly across at the pig- 
tailed Meg, in whom she seemed to divine less of 
neck-and-crop absorption in the utterances of the 
governess and more of covertly admiring interest 
in herself than was the case with the elder sister. 

" May I help you to look at your picture- 
paper ? " she asked, and took the acceptance of 
her appeal for granted, crossing the room to the 
side of the young girl, who was shyly holding the 
leaves of the journal in question, so as to be able 
to peep over its sheets at the startling stranger. 
The shyness in this case was not of the brutal, 
chair-oversetting, bolting character of the brother, 
and was compatible with honoured gratification, 
as was evidenced by the room readily made, and 
the paper hospitably spread open. 


Miss Ransome's first need was to suppress 
the expression of contempt which sprang to eyes 
and lips at the mawkish character of the publica- 
tion ; but to a really well-trained mind even 
Our Girlies can be made to provide nutritious 
pabulum. The portrait of a lady, surrounded by 
prize-taking Schipperke dogs, was the text pro- 
vided on this occasion for Bonnybell's instructive 

" Lady Cressida Beaulieu ! " she read, then 
added elucidatingly, " She used to go to the same 
coiffeur in Paris as we. She has thirty wigs ; 
and he told us that hardly a week passed without 
one of them coming over from London to be re- 
frisM, or done something to." 

" Thirty ! What an expense ! " ejaculated 
Meg, in thrifty horror. 

Bonnybell laughed, her little bubbling, inno- 
cent laugh, that often swore so piquanfly with 
the themes that called it forth. 

" It would be if she paid for them," 

" And doesn't she ? " 

The other looked incredulously at the putter 
of this question. Is it possible that ignorance of 
the simplest facts of nature and civilization could 
be so crass ? / 

" She had not a farthing ; and Reg^^Beau- 
lleu ran through the little he ever had before he 

Miss Meg's eyes were opening rounder and 
rounder in riveted interest at each fresh stroke 
added to the portrait of the lady of the Schip- 


" How does she manage it ? " 

Bonnybell laughed again. "It is not very 
difficult. Of course, everybody knows that 
Waddy, the indiarubber-tyre man, runs her." 

" Rum her ? " 

" Yes ; dresses her, finds her in diamonds, 
pays for her motor and her house in Grosvenor 

It was a pity — at least, one of the interlo- 
cutors thought so — that so surprising, puzzling, 
and exciting a dialogue should be brought to a 
premature close ; but ere Bonnybell could finish 
one more illuminating sentence, " Oh, I dare say 
there is no real harm in it ; it is merely a matter 
of mutual convenience. Waddy pays and Cressida 

introduces him to " the place at her other 

side was occupied by the elder Miss Aylmer, and 
Miss Ransome's promising pupil disappeared on 
a message, to return no more. 


Too late the poor little stranger realized that even 
such truisms and commonplaces of conversation 
as the relations of climbing millionaires and smart 
women for their mutual weal had no place in the 
wretchedly limited conversational repertoire of the 
well-brought-up young girl. It was a very flat 
and flagging conversation that replaced her lucid 
word-paintings, for which she, too late, felt that 
the Dower House schoolroom was not the place, 
and with a very unfeigned relief she received' the 
message sent up by Mr. Tancred, a message 
of inquiry as to her readiness to depart. 

Readiness to depart! There could be little 
doubt as to that ! The state of mind expressed 
in that hackneyed line, " Ready to go, but not 
afraid to stay," had certainly no reference to her ; 
she was horribly afraid to stay. 

Miss Bar nacre shook hands with her with 
brusque manliness, and uttered a condescending 
and rather dry query, which did not seem eager 
for an affirmative answer, as to her making a long 
stay in the neighbourhood. 

Miss Aylmer politely accompanied her down- 
stairs. The party they had left in the hall was 



diminished by two. Flora Tennington and her 
attendant swain were gone. Perhaps, after all, it 
would have been the lesser of two evils, though at 
the time for decision it seemed much the greater, 
to have abode below ; at least, there would have 
been no danger of corrupting Flora s mind, and, 
judging by the undiminished kindliness with 
which the hostess bade her good night, and the 
heartiness with which she invited her to repeat 
her visit. Lady Tennington must have judiciously 
suppressed all that was damaging — and, when you 
came to think of it, how little there was that, 
according to these people's standard, was not 
damaging — in Miss Ransome's past. Flora was 
always a "good old sort." 

While Bonnybell was accepting with dove-like 
coos of gratitude the hospitable offer made her, 
Mr. Tancred was having a word apart with the 
daughter of the house. Their taste for each 
other's society had been long so patent in its 
perfect and harmless openness, that their acquaint- 
ance had grown tired of giving them to each 
other en secondes noces. He was now testing her 
friendship, and trying delicately and tactfully, but 
still with a bias which was quite apparent to her, 
to extract some favourable judgment upon his 
xv&vj protigie from this tried comrade. As a rule, 
their opinions coincided with curious nicety ; and 
in the girl's family circle it had become a pro- 
verbial phrase that what Edward Tancred said 
Catherine would always swear to. The nearest 
thing to a compliment that she produced was the 
ejaculation, "She is amazing I" If the adjective 


was used in a flattering sense, it was too big for 
the occasion, and if it was not ? 

^'■Amazing?" he repeated, conveying a ques- 
tion with the repetition of the word, adding, as 
no explanation seemed forthcoming, " Amazingly 
pretty, do you mean ? " 

" She is that too, of course," replied his friend, 
without excessive haste to make the admission, 
yet, in accordance with her character, making it 
conscientiously all the same. "But that was 
not the sense in which I meant to apply it." 

He knew that it would be wiser not to press 
her further ; that after such an exordium no good 
for Bonnybell could come out of this Galilee, yet 
he heard himself say — 

" How, then ? " 

" I am not good at defining, and besides, I 
think that before long you will find out for your- 
self," she answered, her smooth, fair face, which, 
as all her acquaintance said, ought to be better 
looking than it was, assuming an expression than 
which her ally thought he had never seen any 
that became it less. Was it the case, as Toby 
always told her, that Catherine had a slight cast in 
her left eye } 

The night into which Mr. Tancred and his 
amazing young person stepped out of the Dower 
House seemed at first even darker than it was, 
by contrast. Moon there was none ; but when 
eyes grew used to the windless gloom, stars in 
plenty showed through the light fog that had 

Had it not been for the ominous last words 


that had passed between Miss Aylmer and himself, 
Edward would have begun at once, and naturally, 
to question his companion as to how she had 
fared in the Dower House schoolroom. But a 
species of dread as to what he might hear made 
him avoid the subject. Instead — partly for some- 
thing to say, and partly because the nightly 
heavens had always a fascination for himself — he 
directed her attention to some of the constella- 
tions, making a trifling comment upon their 
beauty. She assented in tones of heartfelt ad- 
miration, without, as he somehow was aware, lifting 
her head to glance at them, her attention being 
indeed chiefly occupied in guiding her steps 
through the darkness, having again refused his 
aiding hand or arm. This was more from habit 
and prudence than from any very active alarm, 
but though he might be, and apparently was, an 
anomally, it was as well not to tempt Providence. 
Although in point of fact her misgivings about 
the success of her late visit were even graver and 
better founded than his, she, unlike him, did 
not shirk the subject, but opened the campaign 
gallantly, in her usual spirit of strict veracity. 

"What a charming girl Miss Aylmer is!" 
The remark was dictated by the fact that Bonny- 
bell's quick eye had detected the intimate-looking 
aside that had passed between her escort and the 
daughter of the house, and drawn from it con- 
clusions of a dimension which would have startled 

" I am glad that you think so." 

" How could any one think anything else ? " 



"She is one of the best." 

He said this, because it was a tribute due to 
loyalty, and because he knew that it was his 
real opinion, but at the moment he did not 
feel it. 

" And that sweet Meg ! And then Toby ! 
I lost my heart to them all." 

" Toby ! Oh, he was there ? " 

"Yes, Mr. Toby was there." 

" Did you get much out of him ? " — in a tone 
tinged with incredulity. 

" It was not so much what he said " — since the 
young gentleman in question had never opened 
his mouth except to admit jam, this was stricdy 
true — " as his looks ; such a nice, frank, straight- 
forward English boy." Men are jealous and 
grudging about other men's praises, and it is 
more than likely that this encomium would never 
be repeated to its object ; but, on the other hand, 
it might, and the attempt cost nothing. 

" And you found plenty to talk about to 
them all ? " returned he, going circuitously round 
his own alarm, and thinking that he might as 
well know the worst. He could not see her face, 
but he heard a slight hesitating catch in her 

" The governess — Miss Barnacre, is she ? — 
monopolized the conversation a good deal ; she 
talked very brilliantly, but I was not quite 
up in the subjects she mentioned. I think " — 
very tentatively — "that I was a litde afraid of 

" A Mk ? " repeated he, with much emphasis 


and less of doubtful suggestion than was generally 
the case in his utterances. 

" Oh, you are afraid of her too, then ! " cried 
Bonnybell, with an accent of joyful relief, but 
added, reverting cautiously to her rule of uttering 
no opinion about her new acquaintances that 
might not handsomely be repeated to its objects, 
" Of course, I saw what a treasure she must be to 
Mrs. Aylmer." 

« Did you ? " 

Tact told her that her praise of the detestable 
Barnacre had reached — perhaps a little exceeded — 
the limits of his power of swallowing, and she 
desisted gladly. 

" And the girls, Catherine and Meg, had 
not they a chance of getting a word in .>'" 

" Not very much " — rather slowly, as her 
thoughts reverted not quite comfortably to the 
sudden door shut upon her budding friend- 
ship with the younger Miss Aylmer. " I saw 
most, perhaps, of Meg. What a darling 
she is 1 " 

*' She is a good child, but she is a great baby 
for her age," replied he, in a tone which she 
heard to be touched with surprise. " I should 
not have thought " — reviewing in his mind certain 
choice flowers of his present companion's speech 
— "that you and she would have much in 

"A great baby for her age ! " repeated Miss 
Ransome, in a key of relieved enlightenment. 
"Ah, that accounts for it, then." 

" Accounts for what ? " 


" For the surprise she showed — the ignorance 
of such very ordinary things — things that every- 
body knows." 

His heart quailed. " What sort of things ? " 

But Miss Ransome was all at once on her 
guard. It might be one's misfortune to be shown 
up ; but to show one's self up was a sin against 
common sense not to be committed by any one 
even moderately wide-awake. 

" I cannot recollect any particular instance," 
she answered with apparent carelessness ; " it was 
only a general impression, and I dare say quite 
a wrong one ; but, anyhow " — returning to safe 
ground — " they are all darlings, and you are very 
lucky to have them so near. I do not say any- 
thing about their luck ! " she added in a witching 
lower key. 

All the same, she was relieved that, when the 
small family was reseated round the supper-table, 
spread with enticing cold foods, in Sunday leniency 
to the admirably treated and very much under- 
worked servants, Camilla put her through no 
catechism as to her afternoon's experiences. The 
note of alarm in Edward's voice had made Miss 
Ransome resolve to be wholly reticent as to the 
slight contretemps about stupid Meg ; and beyond 
a message sent by Mrs. Aylmer to his wife 
and faithfully delivered by Edward, to the effect 
that a day's shopping in London would prevent 
her fulfilling a promise to visit Mrs. Tancred on 
the morrow afternoon, the Dower House remained 
for some good while unmentioned. 

To Bonnybell it would have been an unmixed 


blessing that this silence should last through the 
evening. To pick Camilla's brains upon any 
subject would require the courage and dexterity 
of a lion-tamer, and by a series of delicate feelers, 
veiled suggestions, and innocent-looking supposi- 
tions on the dusky homeward walk, Bonnybell 
had wiled out of Edward all the information 
about the Aylmer family that it was really of any 
consequence to her to know, viz. that through 
the bequest of a distant kinsman the suave Toby 
was independent, and at the death of a decrepit 
great-uncle would be more independent still of 
his father. She had also learnt that he was called 
a woman-hater ; but, so far from being daunted 
by this information she, put her own encouraging 
gloss upon it. " A woman-hater ! Pooh ! that 
only means that he is bored with respectable 
women ; and though I am respectable, and mean 
to remain so, I am not sure that 1 look it." 

In this soothed and hopeful mood Miss 
Bonnybell sat down to supper. Not for long, 
however, did she remain quietly seated. Since 
from the Sunday supper servants were banished, 
and that on Edward devolved the whole onus 
of handing chaudfroids and pouring claret, an 
instant desire to help him sent her circling round 
the table too. He had rather that she did not. 
It gave him the same sense of superannuation as 
if she had oiFered to help him into his greatcoat, 
but after one gentle protest he desisted, fearing 
to hurt her feelings. Camilla's sarcastic-sounding 
observation that, decrepit as Edward looked, he 
was capable of waiting upon two people, had its 


sting taken out by the lenient smile that accom- 
panied it, and that seemed almost to approve of 
the eager rejoinder— 

" Oh, but I love waiting upon people ! " 
There was no denying that this praiseworthy 
ejaculation was uttered chiefly because its author 
hoped that it might advance her in the good 
graces of her benefactress, but it was also acci- 
dentally and incidentally true. Bonnybell was 
one of those born obliging and serviable ; and 
her terrible education had at least had the merit 
of developing these qualities in her. She added 
humbly, " But if it fidgets you — either of you — 
to see me capering round, please say so, and I 
will try to sit still and be waited on." 

She was rewarded by a look that was almost 

" Is it so difficult to you to sit still ? " 

Edward smiled slightly too, a sudden sense- 
less warmth, for which he at once chid himself, 
about his heart at these signs that his womenkind 
were beginning to " get on." 

" I used to wait hand and foot upon " 

She broke off, looking down ; and Camilla's 
conscience — always too painfully active for her own 
or her surroundings' comfort — gave her a smart 

The poor child was — thanks to her, Camilla's, 
severity — afraid to mention her own mother. She 
made her amends at once ; but even the suavity of 
Camilla was gruff, and her " It is a fault on the 
right side, but to night I think I had rather you 
would keep quiet ! " though received with the 


pretty gratitude of one led by rosy chains into 
the way she had been seeking provoked in the 
young stranger's mind the inward comment, 
" What a surly old camel it is ! I always heard 
that they were odious-tempered animals." But 
her meek face gave no slightest indication of this 
reflection ; and she sat down docilely, nor made 
any further protest against the host's ministra- 
tions, beyoad an occasional glance of deprecating 
gratitude when he offered her anything particu- 
larly appetizing, followed by a furtive peep at 
Mrs. Tancred, to ensure her not having noticed 
and thought too affectionate this proof of thank- 

The evening was halfway towards bedtime, and 
Bonnybell, lulled in a false security, was capering 
down the long morning-room with biscuit held 
aloft, in tantalizing education of Jock, pleased 
and pleasing, when the topic she had been 
dreading broke upon her ear. 

"I hear that you paid the Dower House a 
visit this afternoon .'' " 

The slender whiteness of the raised arm 
dropped to its owner's side, and with a surprised 
and dishonest grab Jock mastered a practically 
" unearned increment." 

"Yes," rather falteringly, "Mr. Tancred 
thought that a little exercise would do me 

"Are you fond of walking ? " 

" Oh yes, very, very fond." 

"You will have to wear stronger shoes 
than the ridiculous things you went to church 


in, if you mean to indulge in that pleasure 

" Oh, of course " — with an eager snatch at the 
subject of shoe-leather, in the hope of thereby 
averting further inquiries as to her visit. " Per- 
haps you will very kindly give me the address 
of a good boot-maker." 

The elder woman looked at her with a some- 
thing of incredulity at such an excess of acquies- 
cence, and Bonnybell made an inward note that 
though she must always agree with Camilla, it 
was a mistake to do it too suddenly. That 
defeated its own end, as the mechanical una- 
nimity of the laugh of supers on the stage 
destroys all impression of mirth. 

" I hope that my friends made a pleasant im- 
pression upon you .'' " Camilla would not be put 
off by any boots, thick or thin, from her intended 
aim ; and her strong eyes demanded truth even 
more than did her lips. It was the one com- 
modity of which poor Miss Ransome's warehouse 
was almost always empty, but she was able to 
scrape up quite a respectable amount of it for 
her answer. 

" I thought them all delightful — perfectly 
delightful! There was only one" — with a diffi- 
dent hesitation — "that I was not quite sure I 

"And who is that unfortunate person .'" 

" I — I have no doubt that I am wrong, but 
I did not much fancy Miss Barnacre." 

"And do you always expect to fall in love 
with all humanity at first sight ? " 


There was no great severity in this mode of 
acceptance of her feeler, and Bonnybell rejoicingly 
told herself that for once she was on the right 

" I did not quite like the way she spoke of 

Camilla's always rigid features grew rigider ; 
and Bonnybell's happy conviction of the right 
tack slid from under her. 

" I have no opinion of tales told out of 
school," answered Mrs. Tancred, coldly. 

" Oh, but you must let me explain," cried 
Bonnybell, in a key of anguished exegesis. " I 
have expressed myself so badly, as I always do. 
If you do not let me tell you what she really 
said, you will think it is much worse than 
it was." 

As Camilla maintained a disapproving silence, 
the young girl, too late conscious of a new blunder, 
threw a shipwrecked glance at Edward, and veri- 
fying that he looked thoroughly uncomfortable, 
made the lightning-quick shrewd reflection, " He 
wants to stick up for me, but he thinks it will 
make it worse for me if he does." 

"I have no doubt that she meant well, and, 
of course, she is a most valuable person ; but I 
thought it impertinent in — in — a girl of her age 
to say that she meant to ' tackle ' you about — 
about — your religious opinions." 

The austerity of Camilla's face thawed a little, 
and something that might do duty for a smile 
turned upwards the corners of her thin-lined 


" Did Miss Barnacre happen to mention the 
day and hour at which her investigations are to 
take place, so that I may not be found unpre- 
pared ? " 

Bonnybell breathed again ; and so — or she 
thought so — did Edward. 


" Far from the sun and summer shade " — far, 
that is to say, from the distractions and liability to 
intrusion of the more public parts of the house, 
lay a gallery ; and off that gallery lay a room 
which had witnessed the evolution of Camilla. 
It was to witness the evolution of Bonnybell. 

" In my old schoolroom you will be quite 
safe from interruption," Mrs. Tancred had said, 
when first breaking to her future pupil her in- 
tention of repairing the yawning gaps in that 
pupil's education. It was on the Monday morn- 
ing, and there had been very little " breaking " 
about the — to the ears that received it — horrible 
and staggering announcement. 

" You are only seventeen, I believe ? " 

"Yes, only seventeen." She would be 
eighteen in three days, but did not think it 
necessary to add this superfluous admission. 
And, as she reflected afterwards, it would not 
have saved her. 

" So that, if taken in hand at once, you will 
be able in some degree to make up for the time 
you have so grievously lost." 

An indistinct assent. To what grisly project 
was this the preface ? 



Miss Ransome had been boredly speculating 
as to how she was to get through the day with 
Edward away in the City ; and Toby so near and 
yet so far at the Dower House, but it seemed 
that the solving of the problem was to be done 
for her. 

" I do not know whether you are aware of it, 
but your spelling is phonetic." 

"Yes, I know it is." The speaker had not 
the faintest notion of the sense of the adjective 
employed, but as applied to her own accomplish- 
ment, it evidently connoted something bad, so 
that it was safe to acquiesce. 

" You know what phonetic means ? " 

" Oh yes, perfectly." 

"It is carrying your principle a little far to 
spell the carriage I sent to meet you ' b-r-o-o-m.' " 

" It must have been a slip of the pen," replied 
Bonnybell, devoutly praying that she might not 
be asked how the word that had played her this 
scurvy trick really spelt itself. 

" It will be safer to guard against the possi- 
bility of such slips in the future," rejoined 
Camilla, with a resolute dryness, which showed 
how little she believed in her future disciple's 

The disciple made another feeble struggle 
against the meshes of the net which she felt to 
be closing round her. 

"Do you think that it is any use to teach 
people spelling ? Isn't it born with them ? I 
have heard it said that there are people who can 
never learn to spell ; perhaps I am one of them." 


" It Is, at all events, worth a trial," replied 
Mrs. Tancred, with a determination which brooked 
no further attempt to overset it. 

Half an hour later saw Bonnybell established 
in solitary confinement in her prison, with the 
instruments of her torture methodically arrayed 
around her. During that baleful half hour she 
had, in answer to questions, revealed a know- 
ledge of history and geography quite on a par 
with her orthography, since she had married 
Richard II. of England to his grandmother 
Philippa ; had treated Argentina as a town, and 
generously given it a seat on the Italian sea-board. 

When the depths of her hitherto unsunned 
ignorance had been satisfactorily plumbed, Mrs. 
Tancred left her, having pencil-marked the limit 
to which her investigation of each volume must 
extend, having opened an atlas and hinted at 
sums. (" Oh, but I am very good at figures ! 
I could always calculate the odds in all the races !" 
was an unconsidered interpolation which did her 
no good.) With a detestable promise to return 
in an hour and a half's time to give her a lesson 
in dictation, with a view to fettering the freedom 
of her spelling, and the observation " Your ignor- 
ance is incredible ; but at seventeen nothing is 
irremediable," her instructress withdrew. 

BonnybeU remained for a few moments sedu- 
lously staring at the first words of the opening 
chapter of Green's " History of the English 
People ; " as who knew to what treachery of 
sudden return and inexcusable espionage she 
might be liable ? Not even the sound of the 


swing-door at the end of the passage closing 
behind Camilla's departing form, nor the perfect 
silence that settled down upon her practically un- 
inhabited wing, reassured Miss Ransome. 

She peeped cautiously out, and finding the 
coast clear, at once deserted her studies in order 
to ascertain on what the range of windows that 
lighted the gallery upon which her torture- 
chamber opened, looked out ? They gave upon 
a court-yard, surrounded by offices, and in which, 
at the moment of her survey, nothing livelier was 
happening than the crossing it by a footman in 
shirt-sleeves. Her own prospect — that from the 
schoolroom itself — was even more hopeless. Two 
tall sash-windows looked right into an impenetrable 
belt of thick evergreen trees and shrubs, which 
entirely baffled all attempts to penetrate it. To 
the girl's angry fancy it seemed as if the old witch 
who had laid this tedious spell upon her, must 
have made it spring up in the night in its choking 
density. She turned her attention to the interior 
of the room, and beguiled some half-hour in 
examining and inwardly ridiculing its appoint- 
ments and adornments — the aniline-dyed carpet, 
the crinolined and whiskered hideousities in the 
shape of photographs, presumably of Camilla's 
parents, since they were male and female, and a 
portrait of Camilla, herself in a sashed frock 
and frilled trousers, with a hoop in one hand, 
artistically balanced by a hoop-stick in the other. 
The likeness was still a staring one : large bald 
forehead, long upper lip, and piercing eyes, already 
in evidence. "Put her into a sash and frilled 


trousers, and she would not look much different 
now ! When I get to know Edward a good deal 
better I shall suggest it to him ! " 

She laughed out loud, excessively tickled by 
the idea of this humane and feasible project, then 
pulled herself together in alarm. Who knew how 
far her voice might carry In the echoing void of 
this desolate region ? nor what spies might be set 
to check and report her movements ? Candour 
compelled her to reject the latter supposition as 
soon as formed, divining and acknowledging the 
absolute straightness — stupid, contemptible, and 
unaccountable as it was — of her tyrant. 

After having exhausted the objects of interest 
and mirth afforded her by the — to Camilla — 
sacred relics of her severe infancy and adolescence, 
and having learnt from a perfectly accurate bald- 
faced clock, upon which she fastened an imaginary 
likeness to its owner, that she had succeeded in 
frittering three-quarters of an hour out of the 
hour and a half allotted to her in which to pre- 
pare for Mrs. Tancred's re-appearance and the 
threatened dictation lesson, she returned most 
reluctantly to Greene, skimming and peeping and 
skipping, in the style of the true-born dunce, in 
search of what she would call "plums." Her 
acquaintance with history was indeed slender ; but 
she had a sort of idea that in the driest of that 
species of literature might be found oases in the 
shape of anecdotes about king's mistresses, etc. 
Her quest in this case was very poorly rewarded, 
and with a heartfelt sigh she returned to Chapter I. 
*' Angles, Saxons, Jutes ! What tommy rot ! 


Jutes ! What a ridiculous name ! Jute ! That 
is the cheap stufF to cover chairs with, whose 
colour always flies." 

Her eye left the page, and fixed Itself absently 
upon that branch of the nearest of the shrubbery 
trees, which absolutely swept the window. To think 
of heVy Bonnybell Ransome, of all people, sitting 
here like a good little schoolchild learning lessons ! 
She, with her experiences in the past ! Memory 
went back to them ; indeed, they were never very 
far away. To do her justice, the reminiscences, 
begun with a scornful smile of superiority, ended 
by sending a slight shudder over her. That 
evening when they automobiled down from Paris 
to dine at the Reservoir at Versailles, that was 
about the nearest shave she ever had ! Hateful, 
hateful old Charlie Landon ! And to have to be 
civil to him afterwards ! It would never have 
done to tell poor Claire. She had plenty of other 
things to worry her, and latterly it was so difficult 
to make her understand anything. But how 
angry even she would have been ! Well, assommant 
Spatant as it was here, it was at all events better 
than that. 

Good Heavens ! she could not have been 
thinking of Charlie Landon and the park at 
Versailles for three-quarters of an hour ; yet 
some one — Camilla, of course — was nearing the 
door, and she had not yet mastered even those 
wretched elementary Jutes ! But it was not 

Camilla was frying other fish, and, for the 
morning at least. Miss Ransome was saved from 


any exposure of her frittered opportunities. 
Perhaps, however, she would be glad to compound 
for such an exposure in exchange for the one that 
was hovering over her unsuspecting head. Mrs. 
Tancred was sitting at her large and business-like 
writing-table, tranquilly attacking her daily task. 
Her correspondence was immense, and as she 
never left any letter or note unanswered, but 
sent speedy and conscientious replies, even to such 
valueless trivialities as most people commit at once 
to the waste-paper basket ; as she flouted the idea 
of a secretary or typist, occasionally suggested by 
Edward, her labours sometimes threatened to over- 
whelm her. But the threat was never fulfilled ; 
to-day she was going through her tale of bricks 
with a heart at peace. Bonnybell was out of 
possible mischief, with her feet set on the upward 
path, and in her long solitary hours of the previous 
day Camilla had drawn strength from communion 
with her own strong spirit and earnest appeal to 
her Unknown God worthily to bear and even 
profit by the heavy burden and responsibility laid 
upon her. Whether Miss Ransome would be 
flattered did she know that she was regarded in 
the light of a hair shirt is doubtful. 

It was an understood thing that Mrs. Tancred 
was not to be disturbed during the forenoon, 
and it was a displeased face that she turned upon 
the butler who invaded her busy privacy. 

" Mrs. Aylmer and Miss Aylmer are in the 
morning-room, ma'am, and wish to speak to you." 

" There must be some mistake. Mrs. Aylmer 
knows that I am never at home in the morning." 



" Mrs. Aylmer told me to say that she wished 
to apologize for disturbing you, but that, as it is 
something very urgent, she thought you would 
not mind breaking through your rule for once in 
a way." 

Without any further remonstrance or inquiry, 
and no change of countenance to indicate the 
surprise that her friend's audacity bred in her, 
Mrs. Tancred obeyed the summons to the morn- 
ing-room. There she found the Aylmers, mother 
and eldest daughter, standing close together, and 
somehow giving the impression of doing it for 
mutual protection, near the fireplace. 

"What can it be that will not keep till the 
afternoon .'' " she asked, rather severely, but hold- 
ing out a hand to each in a manner that implied 
intimacy and goodwill. 

She looked from one to the other as she put 
her rebuking question, and it would need a much 
less penetrating vision than hers to perceive that 
both were, in servant phrase, "very much upset." 

" I am going to London in the afternoon," 
replied Mrs. Aylmer, " as I sent word by Edward 
last evening, but even if I was not I do not think 
I could have borne to put it off — to delay getting 
it off my mind." 

" To put what off .? To getting what off your 
mind ? Will you please come to the point ? " 

There was a very perceptible stiffening in 
Camilla's manner ; anything of the evasive or 
shilly-shallying being abhorrent to her. Her 
friend was well aware of this peculiarity, and 
was very much frightened by having provoked it. 


but she was also too much frightened at the task 
she had in hand to state even now directly her 

" It is the first — the very first touch of any- 
thing disagreeable that has ever come into our 
relations with each other." 

" Had not we better sit down ? " rejoined 
Camilla, with an elaborate patience. " There is 
no use in tiring ourselves by standing until we 
get to the point." 

The expectation of an immense period of 
waiting implied by this suggestion ought to have 
decided the matron addressed to take the plunge ; 
but it did not. 

" I do not think that I should ever have had 
the courage to tell you — to enter upon so painful 

a subject at all — if Catherine " She broke 

off with a drowning-man look at her daughter. 

Mrs. Tancred looked also at that daughter. 
She had never liked Catherine as much as she did 
Catherine's mother, nor had ever hidden from 
herself that it was because of her supposed high 
appreciation by Edward, and because the neigh- 
bourhood's habitual observation, "What a nice 
and suitable wife she would have made for him ! " 
had penetrated, if not to her bodily ears, yet to 
the ears of her heart. For these very reasons, 
driven by her unsquarable conscience, she had 
always treated the girl with an unusual leniency. 

"Perhaps Catherine will explain," she said, 
with a strained patience, but not harshly. 

Miss Alymer was already highly pink ; she 
waxed pinker. 


"I think it would come better from mother." 

Mrs. Tancred made a movement, instantly 
checked, of extreme irritation at being thus 
shuttle-cocked between two foolish battledores to 
the waste of time and temper. 

" I will get my knitting until you have 
decided which of you is likely to regain your 
powers of speech first," she said, moving towards 
her large work-basket, and drawing it within 
reach of her chair. 

The determined endurance expressed by her 
knitting-needles — for she was nearing the end of 
her patience, and was never much of a hand at 
feigning — at length goaded the jibbing pair into 
more explicit utterance. 

"We came to speak to you about the girl 
that Edward brought to see us yesterday." 

" Yes ? " Mrs. Tancred had laid down the 
cardigan upon which she had just engaged, and 
her gimlet eyes were looking over, not through, 
her large spectacles in that manner which made 
erring kitchen-maids, drunken husbands, and even 
Edward himself, call on the mountains to fall on 

" She — she is a very lovely creature ! " 

" But you did not break through my rule to 
tell me that ? " 

" Oh no, of course not ; of course not." 

" What, then ? " 

" I did not catch her name at first." 

"Her name is Ransome" — articulated very 
distinctly — " that is, her surname ; her Christian 
name is Bonnybell, an extremely silly one, but 


she is not responsible for it." There was a feeling 
in the air as of putting armour on. " She is the 
daughter of that — that " — an adjective at once 
presentable and applicable seemed hard to find — 
" that very, notorious Lady Ransome who died 
this year." 

" She is the daughter of that infamous 
woman ! What first surprised me about her 
was that she seemed so intimate with Lady Ten- 
nington, who happened to be calling at the same 

" That is a fact which I should not have been 
able to verify." Here Mrs. Tancred undoubtedly 
scored, strong in her immovable resolve to have 
no " truck " with the good-natured but completely 
unvirtuous Flora. Yet even this weapon might 
be turned against her. 

Mrs. Aylmer, like her daughter, was growing 
rosy. There was no drop of vitriol or even gall 
in her whole composition, but when a stone had 
been thrown at her, would she be human if she 
did not return it ? 

" I was surprised that any one coming from 
your house, any girl under your wing, should be 
intimate to the degree of Christian-naming with 
Lady Tennington." 

" I am to understand, then, that it is on the 
score of her acquaintance with Lady Tenning- 
ton that you have come to complain of Miss 
Ransome } " 

The glaring inconsistency with their own 
practice thus coldly fastened upon them loosened 
still further the string of both intruders' tongues. 


" What a misrepresentation ! " said Catherine, 
in a low key of indignation ; and, " Oh, dear 
Camilla, how you do manage to put one in the 
wrong when one knows that one is absolutely in 
the right 1 " cried her more emotional mother. 

Camilla's reply was to fold her bony hands. 

" I wait for an explanation." 

" I came to speak to you about the girl," 
returned the other, attacking her words at a great 
pace, for fear they should decline to come at all, 
" not because I have any grudge against her — in 
fact, I was very much prepossessed by her appear- 
ance — but because — because — I am afraid — 1 really 
and truly think that she is not a fit companion 
for my children." 

There was a slight pause. 

"You think that because the fathers have 
eaten sour grapes the children's teeth should be 
set on edge ? Well, there is a good deal to be 
said in favour of your view." 

The cold impartiality aimed at, if not quite 
attained, in this utterance with its underlying 
suggestion of Pharisaism in the person addressed, 
called forth a hurried retort. 

" You are quite mistaken ; I am not blaming 
her for her unfortunate origin. It would be ini- 
quitous to do that, but for her own behaviour." 

" What has she done .? " 

"As I told you, I knew nothing about her, 
but, thinking that she looked uncomfortable while 
Lady Tennington was talking to her, I sent her up 
to tea in the schoolroom. Catherine can tell you 
the rest." 


The burden thus shifted was taken up with 
evident reluctance, but yet without flinching, by 
the daughter. 

" She seemed rather shy with Miss Barnacre, 
who did her best to put her at ease by asking her 
questions about subjects she thought would 
interest her." (Here a slight upward curl, like an 
angry torn cat's, of the corners of Mrs. Tancred's 
rigid lips, incomprehensible to her companions, 
would have revealed to the initiated a recalling 
on her part of one of the subjects, i.e. her own 
religious creed, of the governess's catechism as 
retailed by the culprit now under discussion.) 
" She got up suddenly, and went over to the other 
side of the table, and joined Meg, who was 
looking at an illustrated paper." 


" Miss Barnacre and I went on talking, but I 
could not help catching snatches of the two girls' 
conversation — of Miss Ransome's, rather — and 
I can only say that it was of such a kind that I 
thought it best to send Meg out of the room." 

" I shall be glad to know precisely what you 

" She was retailing to Meg very objectionable 


Miss Aylmer was evidently to be spared no 
detail of the attributed crime, nor had she indeed, 
now that the action was well engaged, any objection 
to making good her accusation. 

" I heard her telling Meg apropos of a picture 
of some prize Schipperkes, that Lady Cressida 


Beaulieu, who showed them, had no money of her 
own, but was " run " by Waddy, the indiarubber- 
tyre manufacturer. I thought then " — ^with a well- 
justified air of having made out her cause, " that 
it would be better that Meg should hear no more." 

The case for the prosecution was complete. 

" You were perfectly right," said Camilla, 
without a moment's hesitation, though her voice 
was even harsher than usual, and as she spoke she 
walked to the bell, and rang it. 

" You are not going to send for her } " gasped 
Mrs. Aylmer, in a key of the most unvarnished 

"That is exactly what I am going to do." 


Thus it was not the task-mistress, but a mere 
footman, whose approaching tread struck com- 
punctious fear into the breast of the pseudo-student 
in the east gallery — a footman who simply re- 
quested her presence in the morning-room, coup- 
ling with his message the information that Mrs. 
and Miss Aylmer were there. 

This ambiguous piece of news was enough to 
drive Jutes and Angles from a mind on which they 
had a firmer clutch than could be said of Miss 
Ransome's. Mrs. and Miss Aylmer calling at 
half-past eleven in the morning ! What could 
the infringement of what had been already im- 
pressed upon her as an iron law of Mrs. Tancred's 
life portend .'' With a sinking heart the vision of 
pig-tailed Meg making her abrupt exit from the 
Dower House schoolroom upon an obviously 
vamped-up errand presented itself once more to 
her inward sight. Had they come to complain 
of her for corrupting that gaping goose's mind .'' 

The footman was gone, and she laughed out 
loud and clear. Impossible I What had she said 
that was not matter of common knowledge to aU 
the world .'' A brighter possibility suggested itself. 


Perhaps — Mrs. Aylmer's manner to herself had 
been friendly, almost caressing — perhaps they 
had taken a fancy to her, had pitied her sore 
bondage, had come to rescue her, to propose 
some pleasant plan — a plan that would include 
Toby, or leading up to others that would include 
him ! 

" I look more young and innocent with my 
hair a little dishevelled," she said, carefully pulling 
out a strand and letting it amble down the back 
of her neck. 

Having smeared a drop or two of ink on the 
middle finger of her right hand to give the idea 
of past obedience to Camilla's suggestion of taking 
notes as she read. Miss Ransome, having wasted 
only two minutes on her preparations, flew along the 
endless passages and down the slippery polished 
stairs in prompt and cheerful obedience. Short 
as had been the interval between her being sent 
for and her arrival, it had seemed phenomenal in 
length to the three people making forced con- 
versation during it — conversation all the harder 
for being so out of character with their usual easy 

Bonnybell, on her downward flight, had 
quickly decided that it would be wisest to come 
in impulsively, and with no hint of a suspicion 
that the motive for her production could be other 
than a pleasant one. She carried her intention 
out admirably, and the graceful, young cordiality 
of her greeting to the visitors, with its respect- 
fully grateful stage aside to Mrs, Tancred, " How 
good of you to let me know ! " could not be 


improved upon. But the first touch of the 
visitor's limp hands, the first glance at their over- 
set countenances, told her that her earliest and 
worst supposition was the true one, and that the 
object of their coming was not to invite her to 
gambols with Toby, but to arraign her for some 
crime against their stupid and unintelligible code. 
The accusing forms of Waddy and Cressida rose 
before her, and she said to herself with an inward 
groan, "What an ass I was to cast my pearls 
before such swine ! " 

Meanwhile the " swine " might provoke pity 
in their worst enemy ; and Camilla allowed a 
moment or two to elapse, perhaps with a touch of 
malice, perhaps only while gathering herself to 
strike, before she relieved them from their cruelly 
false position. 

"I do not think you need be so very glad 
to see Mrs. Aylmer," she said with a dryness 
in comparison of which the desert sand was 
juicy. *' She has come upon an errand that is 
not particularly pleasant for either herself or 

The light died out of Miss Ransome's face ; 
she was careful that it should do so gradually, 
to keep up the impression of complete unsus- 
piciousness. With the little escaped tendril of 
hair straying over her white nuque, and her 
immense and gentle eyes widely opened, she 
looked like a child whom some ruffian had with 
unexplained brutality hit and hurt. (" I am sure 
that I cannot be looking a day over fifteen.") She 
made no protest, deciding to be too stunned for 


that, but only turned from one to another in 
innocent astonished alarm. 

" Mrs. Aylmer has come to lay a very grave 
charge against you," continued Camilla, in an 
awful voice. " She will explain to you." 

There was nothing in the world that Mrs. 
Aylmer at the present moment relished less than 
the task thus imposed upon her. In her angriest 
moments she had never contemplated having to 
bring the accusation with this horrible publicity 
against the poor child herself. " She looks such 
a mere child ! not a day more than fifteen ! " A 
quiet remonstrance with Camilla upon the subject 
had been all she had bargained for ; and now to 
be suddenly summoned to stick a knife into this 
pretty, fragile, motherless creature who had run up 
to her with such a sweet sureness of welcome, 
such pretty open pleasure, — this poor litde waif 
whom she felt so much more inclined to take into 
her warm motherly arms ! No, it was more than 
human nature could stand. 

" It was Catherine who heard. Catherine 
knows better than I ; she will tell you," was all 
that Catherine's mother was able to produce. 

Miss Aylmer, to do her justice, had no zest 
for the deputed duty, but as she had in the first 
instance been less attracted than her parent by the 
young sinner, so was it less impossible to her to be 
" faithful " in the discharge of the unpleasant feat 
they had come expressly to perform. 

" I could not help overhearing what you were 
saying to Meg." 

The great eyes opened wider in a helpless lack 


of comprehension, and there was an air of painful 
puzzledom about the delicate brows knit in the 
effort to recall any utterance that could have 
given offence. 

« What— 1 said— to Meg ? " 

Happen what might, she would not make it 
easier for this squinting prude, who had given her 
away. It was in these harsh terms that her own 
distress of mind made her qualify the very nearly 
invisible cast in Miss Aylmer's left eye. 

" You were telling her things that I thought — 
that I knew — my mother would think she had 
better not hear." 

" I am very, very sorry ! " — in a low key of 
meek apology that was yet completely at sea as to 
the ground of that apology. "But what sort of 
things ? " 

" You told her that Lady Cressida Beaulieu 
was ' run ' by a man of the name of Waddy." 

The colour died out of Bonnybell's cheek, a 
feat which not even she would have been able to 
perform, but which a very real dismay executed 
for her. Good-bye, Toby ! Good-bye, probably 
the very roof that now covered her ! Here 
lies would avail her nothing. Here innocence, 
penitence, and brass must go hand-in-hand ; and it 
was too likely that not even that trio would be 
strong enough to drag her out of the swamp 
into which she had fallen neck-deep. 

" But he does ! " she answered, her startled- 
fawn air and her apparent fifteen years giving a 
piquancy, if any of her present hearers were in a 
condition to appreciate it, to her scandalous words. 


" I thought that everybody knew it. Why, people 
always ask them to their houses together ; quite 
good people do." 

There was a horrid silence, broken at first 
only by Miss Aylmer's long breath of relief at 
the accomplishment of a hateful duty, and its 
immediately following justification. To the eye of 
faith, Camilla might have been almost seen lifting 
her bludgeon. It fell. 

" Because a blatant indecency is nowadays the 
key-note of a certain section of society," she 
said with an eye-flash that literally scorched its 
unlucky object, "there is no need for you to 
introduce its pollution into our midst ; if you 
have the misfortune to possess a mind full of 
unsavoury knowledge, I must at least request 
you to keep it within the bounds of that 

The young girl stood shivering with bowed 
head under the blast of this blizzard. She could 
not help shivering a little, but had still presence 
of mind enough to shiver even more than she 
could help, particularly as a restless movement 
and a sort of sigh coming from the direction of 
Mrs. Aylmer gave her a faint hope that to one 
at least of her accusers the punishment that had 
overtaken her seemed excessive in its severity. 

"I was brought up a good deal abroad," 
Bonnybell whispered faintly. " I am afraid that 
I do not yet quite understand English ways." 

"That is nonsense," replied Camilla, very 
harshly, but yet not quite with the awful voice- 
quality of her former Philippic — " sheer nonsense. 


The standard for the behaviour of young girls in 
France is a far stricter one than ours." 

" Then I can say nothing ! " rejoined the 
poor child in a voice of despair, folding her 
slight hands, and really not for the moment 
noticing how advantageously the ink-stain on the 
middle finger of the right hand was introduced to 
notice by this gesture. But Camilla saw the tell- 
tale spot — tell-tale of obedience and honest effort, 
and it caused her an odd qualm of pity. 

Probably the accusers found the situation too 
poignantly unpleasant for further endurance, 
which was also, since their work was done, need- 
less. A murmured proposition to depart from 
the mother was followed by a murmured con- 
sent from the daughter. There was a little 
natural difficulty about their farewells, and in 
the moment of hanging back which resulted, 
and before this problem was solved by Camilla's 
shaking hands with them and saying in a hard, 
conscientious voice, " You were perfectly right, 
I am glad that you had the courage to tell me. 
You shall have no cause for further complaint," 
Bonnybell realized that before the clock had ticked 
thirty times she would be left alone with her 
judge and executioner to hear what awful sentence 
of hopeless doom ? 

With an impulse which had less of calculation 
in it than in any of her actions, words, or gestures, 
since her first entry, though even here there was 
a little, she slipped across the intervening space 
to the one person in whom she had divined 
some bowels of compassion, i.e. Mrs. Aylmer, 


and spoke tremblingly, yet not without a forlorn 

" I am very, very sorry for having made such 
a bad return for your goodness in giving me so 
kind a welcome ; but indeed, indeed I did it in 
ignorance ! " 

" I am quite sure you did," replied the other 
precipitately, conquering her desire to throw her 
arms round the criminal and give her several 
hearty kisses only by a very fast retreat to the 
door ; " and I would have given anything that — 
that this had not happened ! " 

Mrs. Aylmer must be a foolish woman, for she 
cried the whole way back to the Dower House. 

There remained the executioner and the gallows 
bird. Camilla had sat down. Judges always sit, 
but, on the other hand, hangmen always stand. 
A grotesque wonder flitted through Bonnybell's 
mind as to how a person who united the two 
functions could harmonize this discrepancy in 
practice } There followed an absolute silence. 
Camilla did not even look at her. She sat with 
the " starers " she had taken oflF lying in her lap, 
absently rubbing their glasses with her pocket- 
handkerchief. Was her wrath too deep for even 
further vituperation } Would it be satisfied 
only by a dumb ejection from her house and 
protection ? 

As the moments passed this seemed to the 
girl waiting the pronouncement of her doom 
the only possible solution, and after a time she 
lifted up, if such a phrase can apply to anything 
so low and faint, her little pathetic voice. 


" Must I go to-day, or will you let me stay 
till to-morrow — to make arrangements ? " 

Camilla lifted her eyes, out of which the fire 
and sword had gone, but whose expression was 
inscrutable to the quaking would-be reader of 
their meaning. 

" Where would you go to ? " 

The cool common sense of the inquiry brought 
home to Miss Ransome more strongly than ever 
before the sense of her own waifness. She threw 
out her hands hopelessly in front of her. 

« Where indeed ? " 

The action once more brought the inky ensign 
of her studiousness into prominence, and this 
time it really served as a lifebuoy. Not that 
Camilla said anything that spoke of relenting ; but 
some indefinable change in the atmosphere that 
surrounded the rigid figure in the armchair, still 
rubbing its goggles, emboldened the poor sinner 
to put up a quivering plea in her own defence. 

" I have not had many advantages ; it was 
not poor Claire's fault " — with a hasty recurrence 
of that feeling that it was against the rule of 
the game to impute blame to the helpless dead. 
" She was too ill latterly to understand about 
anything — but — I have not had much of a 

For once — except in that pardonable gloss 
upon the habits of her late mother — the girl was 
speaking God's truth, and so strong and immediate 
was the eifect of her appeal that neither Mrs. 
Tancred nor herself perceived that she had used 
the tabooed Christian name. 



When the answer came, Bonnybell knew that 
neither to-day nor to-morrow would find her sur 
la pavi, as she herself would have worded it. 

"You shall have a chance now; it will lie 
with yourself to profit by it." 

There was both dignity and kindness of a 
severe sort in voice and mien ; and to the 
reprieved criminal the relief was so immense that 
she fell incontinently on the floor at her bene- 
factress's feet. Mrs. Tancred left her there, and 
hurried out of the room, in evident distaste for 
the prostration. 

No sooner was she gone, than Miss Ransome 
picked herself up. 

" That was another mistake," she said. " Will 
there be no end to them ? Oh, how did I live 
through it ? Oh, what a near squeak ! Oh for 
a cigarette ! " 


" Well, what have you to say for your protigie 
now ? " 

" Who is my protigie ? Have I got one ? " 

There was weariness in the voice that answered ; 
but neither that quality nor the patience that 
accompanied and emphasized it had any influence 
in persuading the putter of the question to desist 
or delay the communication which it prefaced. 

Edward had come home dispirited and out 
of tune. It had been a bad day on the Stock 
Exchange, even the gilt-edged securities tumbling 
down ; a rumour of the suicide of a member had 
been confirmed, and the sense of how litde he 
himself risked, in comparison with the life-and- 
death struggle going on around him, which to 
many minds would have been a source of con- 
solation, deepened Mr. Tancred's gloom. He 
would have been glad to have been told some- 
thing pleasant, however trivial, on his return. 

But Camilla was not one of those wives who 
tactfuUy pick and choose the moments for im- 
parting bad news. It would never have occurred 
to her that ill tidings told at night might probably 
rob the recipient of sleep, and that it would 



therefore be better to defer them till the morning. 
Such a reticence would have seemed to her to 
argue a want of moral courage on the part of 
both narrator and hearer. If anything untoward 
occurred to herself she wished to be told it at 
once, no matter whether she was sick or well, 
waking or sleeping ; and she did as she would be 
done by. 

" Miss Bonnybell has surpassed herself this 

"What has she done ?" cried he, forgetting 
his pretence of not knowing to whom his wife 
was alluding, with a great heightening of his sense 
of out-of-tuneness, made up of fear of what he 
was going to hear and of exasperation with 
himself for minding so much what he ought to 
mind so little. 

"Marian Aylmer and Catherine have been 
here to-day," said Camilla, not falling into the 
procrastinating weakness which had been shown 
by the ladies alluded to, but going straight to the 

" I thought Mrs. Alymer had an engagement 
in London ? " 

" So she had in the afternoon ; but they came 
in the morning." She paused, as if to let him 
absorb this fact, pregnant with significance of 
something abnormal and monstrous. " They 
came to make a formal complaint against " — 
" your protigie " was on the very edge of her 
lips, but perhaps some sudden impression of how 
fagged he looked prompted her at the very last 
moment to alter it to — " our guest." 



" What for ? " 

In his heart he knew that he was not very 
much surprised, recollecting the relieved tone of 
Bonnybell's " That accounts for it ! " in answer to 
his remark upon Meg Aylmer's backwardness, on 
their homeward walk. He felt at the time with 
misgiving that it would be wiser not to ask what 
it " was. Well, he was going to learn now. 

" For corrupting Meg's mind." 

"I did not know that Meg had a mind to 
corrupt," he answered unwisely, and, with an 
instant awareness of his slip, added, " Miss 
Ransome must have been very quick about it, 
for she could not have been more than half an 
hour in the schoolroom, and the great and good 
Barnacre was there on guard all the time." 

" I only repeat the tale that was told me," 
replied Camilla, with frosty impartiality. " She 
was overheard inoculating Meg with one of the 
worst of the current scandals of the day, dilating 
— no " — correcting herself with characteristic 
honesty — " there perhaps I am inexact ; she 
probably had not time to dilate, but telling her 
how Lady Cressida Beaulieu was ' run ' by a man 
of the name of * Waddy.' " 

An odious inclination to vexed laughter assailed 
Edward : firstly at the ugly piquancy of the imputed 
criminal utterance as proceeding from such almost 
infantile lips, and secondly at the disproportion of 
such a pomp of disapproval as was implied by the 
"indignation meeting" alluded to. But the laughter 
impulse was a mere muscular contortion, and the 
annoyance kiUed it dead before he found words 


to comment on the charge. The accusation was 
grotesque — with the criminal's antecedents, what 
else could they have expected ? — but the peep given 
by it into her mind and its furniture hurt him all 
the same. The whole business, with its unneces- 
sary parade and fuss, was a storm in a tea-cup, and 
yet it might have far-reaching consequences for 
the poor little culprit, and it was he that would 
have brought them on her. He knew that he 
ought to express abhorrence at the offence com- 
mitted, and that the article which issued from the 
warehouse of his jaded mind was not the one 

"It is I that am to blame," he said, a sharp 
self-reproach piercing through the natural languor 
of his tones. " I ought not to have introduced 
her to them ; she had no wish for it." 

" She need not fear a repetition of the experi- 
ence," returned Camilla, folding her arms in that 
wrapper which she had assumed, having snatched 
ten minutes from the bare half-hour which she 
dedicated to dressing for dinner, in order to make 
an irruption with her Evangel into her husband's 

To Edward's eye and mind that snufF-coloured 
peignoir had something in common with the 
judge's black cap. His wife seemed always to 
assume it when she pronounced sentence of death. 
Was she going to pronounce one now ? If there 
was any chance of averting it, that chance would 
not lie in the direction of a too eager partisanship 
on his own part. 

"You must remember," he said with a cool 


gentleness of reminder, " that when you under- 
took this task you braced yourself to the making 
of discoveries that would more surprise than please 

"That is true," she answered after a moment's 
reflection. " If you had asked me, I should have 
told you that I was prepared for anything — bad 
habits, objectionable phrases, idleness, ignorance — 
her ignorance is stupendous y 

" I am sure it is." 

" I put her through a few elementary ques- 
tions upon English history this morning. There 
were not many facts that she was sure of, but she 
was quite sure that King Richard II. had married 
Philippa of Hainault. I tried to explain to her 
that in the fourteenth century men did not marry 
their grandmothers, although it has become a very 
common practice to-day." 

The shaft went home, as it was intended. 
What had he done to deserve it .? Did she sus- 
pect him of an intention, by servile acquiescence 
in her subsidiary charges, to lead her away from 
the main point at issue ? 

" But that is not the question now. What we 
are primarily concerned with — what was the object 
of Mrs. Aylmer's visit — is to prevent a person 
for whom we have made ourselves answerable 
from spreading the infection of her own corrup- 
tion to healthier households." 

The husband and wife were standing opposite 
to each other, but in their respective grace and 
ungrace, still in morning dress ; a trivial irrita- 
tion with her for making him late for dinner 


forming the warp of that annoyance of which her 
communication was the woof. 

"Don't you think that the whole thing is 
grossly exaggerated ? " he asked with an accent 
where a lifelong habit of courtesy proved its 
value by helping him to an apparently quite good- 
tempered air of deference — "the pompous embassy, 
the inconsiderate breaking of your rules. No ! " — 
recapitulation of his friend's errors against good 
taste leavening the " sweet reasonableness " of his 
words with a perceptible indignation. " The whole 
way of setting about it was wrong, and not what I 
should have expected of an old friend like Mrs. 

"She was perfectly right," rejoined Camilla, 
standing bolt upright under an electric burner, 
which made her look taller and scraggier than 
usual. " If a woman is granted the inestimable 
blessing of children, her first duty is to them, and 
besides " 

She paused. Should she teU him, as it was 
on the edge of her lips to do, what was the 
strict truth, that both the original idea of the 
indictment against BonnybeU and the vigour to 
carry it out had belonged to Catherine Aylmer 
and not to her mother ? Should she or should she 
not ? The neighbourhood was right. Catherine 
Aylmer would have made Edward a fit and con- 
genial wife in the event of her own death, and 
Camilla was aware that her life was not a good 
one. The girl might still fill that ofliice. Why, 
then, should the present tenant say anything 
calculated to prejudice Edward against her ? 


" Besides what ? " 

Mrs. Tancred had no powers of inventing, nor 
wish to invent, an altered utterance, 

" I have thought better of what I was going 
to add," she answered. 

Silence followed. He had forgotten that she 
was making him late for dinner. All desire to 
check the flow of her communication had ceased, 
replaced by an awful curiosity for details. 

" I suppose that they did not meet ? " 

" You are mistaken there ; it was only fair to 
her that she should be confronted with them." 

The hearer hoped that the slight shudder he 
could not repress at the idea of this display of 
equity escaped detection. 

"What happened?" 

"Oh, she came bounding in, so delighted to 
see them. I explained to her at once that she 
had no great cause for elation at this visit. They 
must have felt rather like fools under her demon- 
stration ; they certainly looked it." She stopped 
with a fierceish smile, as if the memory of her 
friend's discomfiture were not at all disagreeable 
to her. 

The picture rose in sharpest realism before 
Edward's vision. The lovely little gay gladness 
coming frisking in, and its reception ! 

" And — and how did Miss Ransome take it ? " 

" She made no attempt to deny the charge." 
After a moment, " Her excuse, if it can be called 
one, was that she had supposed every one to be 
acquainted with the ugly story. Perhaps every 
one is ! " Another slight pause. " To do her 


justice, I do not think that she had any glimmer- 
ing of a suspicion that there was any diiFereftce 
between 'decent' and 'indecent' in conduct or 

He bit his lip ; protestation or extenuation 
would be fatal, and he attempted neither. 

"And then ?" 

" Then — why, then they went. I do not think 
I ever saw people in quite such a hurry to 
be off." 

Again her tom-cat smile reappeared, and she 
went off wearing it, when she at length left him 
to his belated toilet. 

" You have heard, I suppose ? " 

« Heard what .? " 

It was disingenuous of Edward to pretend 
ignorance of the subject of Bonnybell's ques- 
tion, but though guiltily conscious of an acute 
curiosity as to the criminal's version of the 
story, a grave doubt as to whether it would not 
be the wiser course to let such sleeping dogs 
lie, drove him into as much prevarication as was 
implied by his " Heard what ? " 

" If you have not heard, I think it would be a 
relief to me to tell you, if you would allow me." 

" Oh, but I have heard ! " he answered rather 
precipitately, uncomfortably aware that he was 
giving himself away by admitting knowledge of 
what he had a moment ago feigned ignorance of. 

The scene was the morning-room after dinner 
on the same day. From that dinner Camilla had 
been summoned away by a messenger of ill from 


the village. She had left that small and rigidly 
plain portion of her own excellent food which 
she ever allowed herself without hesitation or 
regret, and was still absent, now that the tea-table 
was being placed in its usual position. Edward 
had not long rejoined his guest, who was sitting 
rather out of sight behind a screen, from beyond 
which her voice came low and plaintive. The 
few glances at her that he had allowed himself 
during dinner had told him — or he thought so — 
that her eyelids were a little reddened, though not 
to the extent of disfigurement. " I am one of 
the few people who can cry becomingly," was her 
own dispassionate dictum, " and it will be dis- 
arming to look as if I had wept, and I am sure " — 
the waif feeling returning in some strength — " it 
will come easily enough ; no one can ever have 
had better reason to do it." 

"I was silly enough to hope I had made a 
good impression," 

" I, too, quite thought so," he answered mourn- 
fully, touched by the gentle humility of her 
confession of mistake. 

"I dare say I should have continued in my 
fool's paradise if Miss Aylmer had not persuaded 
her mother to come and complain of me." 

Bonnybell had not the generosity of Camilla, 
and the immediate effect of her words upon Miss 
Aylmer's ally and supposed admirer filled her 
with a sincere and tranquil joy. 

" Miss Aylmer ! " he echoed with an unmis- 
takable start. " Catherine Aylmer ! Oh, you 
surely must be mistaken." 


For answer, he saw a lovely little dusky head 
shaking itself sadly from its seclusion. 

" She was perfectly right — oh, do not think I 
am blaming her ! — quite, quite right, if she thought 
I was doing her sister harm ; but oh, it is all 
such a different milieu from what I have been 
used to ! If you knew, if you could only guess, 
how utterly at sea I feel among you all." 

There was something in the forlorn and well- 
justified pathos in her tone that might have 
melted a harder heart, and affected a nature less 
sensitive to others' sufferings than Edward's. He 
rose out of the armchair into which he had tiredly 
let himself down on his first entrance, as if seeking 
relief from his emotion in a change of posture. 
(" Good Heavens ! " thought she, " I have over- 
done it. I have been too affecting. I thought I 
was safe with him. One is never safe.") But 
he only went and stood on the hearth-rug, with 
his back to the garlands and grouped figures of 
the Adams chimney-piece, and took a coat-tail 
pensively under each arm. 

" I am afraid that it was inevitable at first," he 
said at length with a faltering reassurance in his 
voice. " The plunge was too sudden ; but things 
will right themselves in time, don't you think ? " 

His manner was always tentative, and he 
had never in his life felt less sure of the truth 
of any proposition than of the one he was now 

" Do you really think so ? " she asked, once 
more relieved and astonished that her new fears 
of his harbouring purposes of enterprise were as 


baseless as her former ones. She added hesita- 
tingly. " You could help me a good deal if you 

" I ! " 

" If — when you saw that I was going to make 
one of my blunders, you would make some sign 
to me to stop." 

His head was bent a little. It gave her the 
opportunity to notice how thickly and with what 
a pretty tendency to curl at the ends his hair 
clothed its crown. Her proposition had not the 
effect of lifting it. 

" I do not quite see how that can be managed," 
he answered in a key whose reluctance to dis- 
appoint her and an indubitable disapproval of her 
project strove for mastery. 

" We could agree beforehand upon a little code 
of signals," she went on, pushing aside the screen 
that had hitherto partly hidden her in the eager- 
ness of persuasion. " If you passed your hand 
across your forehead, it would mean ' Stop at once.' 
If you pulled out your shirtcuif, it would mean 
' Make your sentence end in some different way 
from what you are going to." 

Still his eyes did not lift themselves, nor did 
he give any sign of acquiescence. An uncom- 
fortable sense of the horrible glibness — speaking 
of long use of such methods — with which she 
developed her little underhand plan was very 
present to him. 

" I am afraid I do not quite like the idea." 

" Don't you ? " she answered humbly and 
sadly. " Then I am sure it is not a good one, but 


if you do not consent to help me in some way — 
to give me some sort of rule to guide me — I shall 
always be getting into fresh disgrace with Mrs. 
Tancred ; and — old people are so very easily 

He lifted the head whose well-furnished top 
she had been admiring now, and looked at her 
with a disapproval which, if gentle, was very 

" I think, if you do not mind, that I had 
rather you did not speak of my wife quite like 

Her heart sank, and the flustered desire to 
repair her error led her into a far graver one, 

" Now I have made an enemy of you too," 
she said, " and Heaven knows that is the last thing 
I wish to do ; but — but she looked so much more 
like your mother." 

Miss Ransome had touched the raw of her 
host's whole life. 


Of the three denizens of Stillington its owner 
took by far the easiest mind to bed with her. 
She had accepted the presence of Bonnybell, 
with all its attendant ills, in the same spirit as she 
would have accepted the loss of her fortune, an 
infidelity of Edward's, or some dire blain or boil 
upon her own body. Bonnybell had been sent 
here by the same Unerring Wisdom that would 
have sent her any of the other possible afflic- 
tions, and she had only to adjust her back to the 

Miss Ransome had no such consciousness to 
support her as, with an inexpressible yearning 
for the soothing properties of tobacco, she sat 
in the huge chintz chair by her bedroom fire, 
taking stock of her errors, and their probable 

" I shall bring him round in time, I suppose," 
she reflected. " But what a surprise ! Who would 
have thought he would have taken up the cudgels 
for his old lady's juvenility so violently ? Violent 
is not the word. I should not think he could 
ever be violent ; and yet those lackadaisical eyes 
gave a fine flash when I suggested that she was 



not quite a slip of a girl ! I must pretend for 
the future that she looks sixteen, or " — more 
shrewdly — " I had better not meddle with the 
subject again at all to him." A lugubrious stare 
into the fire, with inky hair still unbuilt for the 
night, and hands clasped round slender lace-and- 
satin-clad knees. (Bonnybell's peignoir would not 
own Camilla's, even as a poor relation.) " After all, 
I believe the old camel will prove the easier of the 
two to get round. I did not half dislike her when 
she stood glowering over me as I grovelled on the 
floor, and told me I should have a chance — it will 
be an uncommonly disagreeable chance " — with a 
backward glance thrown by memory at her hours 
of evaded study in the dull schoolroom, ending 
in the grisly ordeal of confrontation with her 
accusers — "but such as it is, I must hold on to 
it until something better turns up." 

When will that be ? Not, certainly, on the 
morrow of her exposure ; that brought only a 
dictation lesson, which threw Rontgen rays of 
unexampled brutality upon her orthography ; 
brought also a bluntly worded inquiry from 
Camilla, in allusion to a slight tinting which her 
late paling experiences had made seem admis- 
sible, as to whether she had " forgotten to wash 
her face ? " A still less delicately worded hope 
followed, in answer to Miss Ransome's explana- 
tion that the wind must have caught her cheeks," 
a caustic hope that the "zephyr" in question might 
remain prisoned in its cave during her stay in her 
present quarters. A further piece of advice to 
commit it to the flames with the least possible 


delay displayed the discourtesy of an entire dis- 
belief in Miss Ransome's interpretation of her 
heightened roses. 

The charge and its feeble parry took place in 
Edward's presence ; but he did not attempt the 
smallest share in the engagement. Not a rustle 
of the paper he was reading ; not the least fid- 
geting on his chair, not an eye-glance nor a lip- 
biting gave evidence of any inward protest against 
the " baiting " that was being undergone by one 
whom he had yesterday seemed inclined to 
shield and pity. Throughout the day — or rather 
throughout that small part of it when he was at 
home and in her presence — he treated her with 
a perfect but distant courtesy, and so through 
the next and the next. 

" Oh, how careful one ought to be ! " she 
sighed to herself ruefully. " One would have 
thought that the one perfecdy safe thing to do 
was to laugh at a wife to a husband, or at a hus- 
band to a wife, but in this dreadful place there are 
no rules, only exceptions 1 " 

When the third day showed no sign of a 
relaxation of her host's gentle austerity. Miss 
Ransome grew desperate. She was returning in 
drag-footed boredom from a walk in the shrub- 
beries to the extreme end of which she had been 
lured by the distant sound of guns. It was un- 
likely that the park should be shot in its master's 
absence ; but triggers were being pulled some- 
where within hearing, and one of them might be 
by Toby ! It was on neutral ground alone that 
she could now have a chance of pursuing that 


chase which she was so loth to abandon. It was 
possible that if she walked far enough into the 
park in the direction of the Dower House, she 
might intercept him on his homeward way. Her 
intention to make the attempt held out while 
she followed a long walk that wound with the 
slow midland rivulet, that it was long ago cut 
to accompany on its sluggish course through the 
pleasure-grounds, until a little bridge across the 
stream, and a rustic gate on its further side giving 
access to a copse that led into the Park, were 
reached. But, having attained this point, her 
resolution failed. The light was thickening. 
Some one had told her that this was the season 
when the stags — heard even from here belling 
loudly — -were dangerous to meet. Even the very 
oiF-chance of being rescued by Toby from hoofs 
and antlers made it scarcely worth while to incur 
the probability of being tossed by the one and 
trampled by the other. She turned sadly away, 
wafting a sigh in the direction of the renounced 
prize, and breathing the silent, pensive ejacula- 
tion, " Oh, you great lout, if you only knew 
what was good for you ! " 

She retraced her steps through the humid 
gloom of the laurels, and by the dimming, dull 
water. Near the house — but not very near — 
just where two giant cedars stood on each side of 
the path, making twilight into midnight beneath 
their shade, she met Edward. 

" You thought I was lost ! " cried her little 
voice in trepidating pleasure. " You came to look 
for me ! How more than kind ! " 


" I am afraid that I did not even know you 
were out," he answered, stepping hastily out of 
the patch of darkness and throwing away the end 
— or a good deal more than the end — of his 
cigarette. Both actions seemed to her unneces- 
sary and undesirable. She commented only upon 
the last. 

" Please don't ! " she pleaded eagerly. " You 
know that I was brought up upon cigarettes — I 
mean, of course, upon their smell. You do not 
know how I love it ! " 

The Heimweh in her tone shocked and 
startled him. Heimweh ! Good Heavens, for 
what a Heim ! 

" Do not walk quite so fast," she said, en- 
treatingly. " I want, if you will let me, to get 
right with you. I know that I have been all 
wrong since Sunday." 

He slackened his pace — as what else could he 
do, so besought .'' — but it was with an unwilling- 
ness that she divined through his civil acquies- 
cence ; and he did not answer quite immediately. 
To deny that she had been "wrong with him" 
since Sunday would be to take a leaf out of that 
Liar's Book, of which he had already begun to 
be afraid that she was a steady peruser ; to assent 
would be certain to be followed by a re-opening 
of the casus belli, and there was nothing in the 
world that he wished less. To refuse to listen 
to the explanation, which it was but too evident 
that she had invented and was bent on uttering, 
would be to give it importance. He tried to 
carry the thing off lightly. 


" My memory refuses to go back as far as 
Sunday. This is Thursday. Let us start a new 
reckoning from to-day." 

But Bonnybell was not to be put off. She 
got a little nearer to him, partly in real anxiety, 
partly because she reckoned upon her face as her 
best ally in the work of propitiation, and in this 
scant light proximity was indispensable for him to 
feel its value. 

" You were quite under a misapprehension the 
other night, when you were so displeased with me," 
she began, with rapid deprecation. " Is it likely 
that, friendless as I am, I should want to alienate 
my best — a — a — well-wisher ?" (She had hesitated 
over the last word, as if her humility had replaced 
by it the more presuming " friend.") " I never 
meant to say or imply that Mrs. Tancred was really 
old." (Oh, Miss Ransome !) "Fifty! what is fifty 
nowadays ? Many women of fifiy do not look 
a day over five-and-thirty. With a little touching 
up, Mrs. Tancred would not look a day over 

He would give his ears to stop her. There 
seemed to him something at once shocking and 
ludicrous, firstly in her brazen mendacity, and 
secondly in the indelicacy of her determination to 
discuss his wife ; but she ran on so fast in the 
eagerness of self-exculpation that he could not 
find a chink in which to put a protest. 

" What I meant to say was that Mrs. Tancred 
intended to look old, that it was a parti-pris in her 
case. I thought it must be so by the way she 
scratches her hair off her forehead." 


But here, chink or no chink, he broke in. 
" Stop ! " he said, authoritatively, " I must beg 
of you to change the subject." 

Through the damp mistiness she looked up at 
him, snubbed and frightened, her pomegranate- 
flower lips apart, and with the stream of explana- 
tory eloquence that had been issuing from them 
frozen at its source. 

" I see that I am making bad worse," she said 
presently, her glibness fled, and in a very crest- 
fallen little pipe. 

He could not command himself to speak again 
yet ; still sorely angry and chafed, yet with a half- 
relenting feeling that he had been too harsh to this 
wicked little waif that had been tossed on his 

"I am a very great trial to you both," pre- 
sently came sighingly in his direction — sighingly, 
and he half-suspected showerily too ; " but it is 
far worse for Mrs. Tancred than for you." 

" Worse for Mrs. Tancred than for me ! " 
repeated he, echoing her words in a tone of 

Was she going to be guilty of some new 
monstrosity against good taste ? Was she going 
to force him to a fresh rebuke ? This latter was 
perhaps the most urgent form that his fear took. 
But her next words reassured him. 

" Yes, because she has to see so much more 
of me than you have. You are away all day, and 
need never cast a thought towards me between 
sunrise and sunset, but I am always before her 
eyes, shocking her every time that I open my 


mouth by my gross ignorance, or by saying some- 
thing impossible without knowing it ; and now 
that she has undertaken my education " 

She paused dramatically. A wholesome and 
welcome inclination to laugh came over him, but 
he checked it ; he must not allow himself to de- 
cline into triviality, or she might at once resume 
her terrible confidentialness. 

" It is not that I am not mosi anxious to learn. 
Oh, do not misunderstand me on that point ! 
I have had enough of misunderstandings the last 
three dreadful days." 

Through the dusk he could see that her little 
black orphaned hands were tightly clasping each 
other, but he did not know that their anxious 
grip was a matter of calculation, nor that the 
penitent before him was saying to herself, " I am 
really very touching. The odd thing is that I am 
rather touched myself too." 

" If I thought I should ever do her any 
credit," she continued, inserting a slight quaver 
into her tone ; " but I have no natural aptitude 
for learning, and I am beginning so late. I cannot 
bear to think of what uphill work it wiU be for 

" That is an aspect of the question that will 
never present itself to her," replied he, with what 
might be a shade of dryness in his voice ; and 
the anxious Bonnybell divined that she was not 
even yet quite on the right tack. 

(" I am overdoing it ; I must not be too 
angelic. He is beginning to suspect that I em- 
broider a little.") 


" Perhaps it was one word for Mrs. Tancred 
and two for myself" — allowing a tinge of self- 
rallying playfulness to creep into her words. 
" Perhaps I am only a born dunce, and want an 
excuse for remaining one." 

The unvarnished truth of her last sentence did 
her far more service with her hearer, as she in a 
moment felt, than the high varnish of her pre- 
ceding ones. 

"There are worse things in life than a 
dunce," he answered, in a tone of unmistak- 
able indulgence, and for which he contemned 

" Then we are friends again," rejoined she, 
softly sliding out, with carefully studied impul- 
siveness, four little humble fingers and a hesitating 
thumb to meet his clasp. 

" Yes," he answered, accepting her hand with 
a frank comradeship, in which even her expert 
palm could detect no attempt at a squeeze, " by 
all means let us be friends ; only" — with a return 
to his habitually tentative, non-assertive manner — 
" would not it be a good plan for us to remember 
that even in the most intimate friendships there 
are reticences ? " 

Miss Ransome's education proceeded, despite 
all her struggles, with inexorable regularity. 
" Apace " is hardly the word to apply to its pro- 
gress, since her own resolution to learn as little as 
possible rescued her from all danger of its course 
being a rapid one. It was impossible to peruse a 
contraband novel from across the Channel, or 
enjoy a ribald little Parisian journal, smuggled to 


her by a foreign admirer, during the whole time 
of her incarceration in the schoolroom, as detection 
must inevitably have followed upon an entire 
neglect of the imposed tasks. But her intelligence 
was quick, and she was able to assimilate enough 
surface knowledge of the subjects in which she 
would have to undergo an examination by her 
tormentor without absolute disgrace, and yet 
have a good margin of time to bestow upon 
" L'Enigme du P6ch6 " and Le Petit Journal. 

A discovery that her reading of her native 
tongue was on a par with, if not upon an even 
lower plane of accomplishment than her spelling, 
led to the imposition of a corvee more hated by its 
victim, as less able to be shirked or scamped than 
any of its fellows. In an evil hour, it occurred 
to Camilla that to make her pupil read aloud the 
daily newspapers to herself would be the best 
method by which- at once to discover and correct 
the extent of her ignorance. Through foreign 
intelligences, leaders, money-markets the unhappy 
girl ploughed with stumbles and jibs. Once a 
gleam of possible relief came to her. 

"Would you care for me to read you the 
Racing intelligence ? " 

"You might as well read me a page of 
Coptic." ... 

" I could explain it a little to you, if you cared 
to hear " — with a delicate bashfulness at this pro- 
posal to reverse their respective relations and turn 

Camilla brushed away the proposal as with a 
new-twigged besom. 


"I know nothing in the world that I wish 
less ! Read the review of the new ' Life of 
Schopenhauer.' " 

But if Miss Ransome was an unsuccessful 
and unwilling pupil, she was, as Jock soon learnt 
to his cost, a relentless and successful teacher. 
He disliked being educated almost as much as 
she did herself — it would be impossible to do so 
more — yet that perseverance on her part which, 
if exerted in another direction, would have made 
her a profound and eloquent scholar, and his 
own vanity, of which he had as large a share as 
most dogs — and that is saying a good deal — 
combined to enable him to reach a very high 
standard of unnatural accomplishments. 

" If I ever get round her, it will be vid Jock ! " 
Bonnybell said to herself astutely, seeing the 
unwilling laughter that wrinkled the mouth of 
Jock's mistress, and hearing the latent enjoyment 
that pierced through the superficial snub of her 

"What a fool you are making of the 

" He may not enjoy being educated, but, like 
me, he knows that it is good for him," replied 
Bonnybell, with pretty insincerity, throwing a 
glance, as she delivered herself of her fib, at 
Edward, to see how he took it — whether with 
approbation of her sweet docility, or with that 
grain of distrust which she had uneasily sur- 
mised several times lately in his reception of her 
statements both as to fact and sentiment ? 

She could read no expression of either approval 


or disapproval in his eyes ; but he broke out 
into one of his rare laughs, as she capered off 
again down the long room, whirling Jock along 
in an ambling waltz, against which his dragging 
hind legs made a bored protest. There was calcu- 
lation and consciousness in the childish frisking 
gaiety of Jock's partner ; but yet there was real 
young enjoyment too. One might be a little 
Mayfair mudlark, obliged to earn one's bread by 
currying favour with one's patrons in any way 
that seemed most likely to succeed ; but one was 
only eighteen,^ and it took but a very little to 
make one's heart feel uncommonly light. 

Having landed Jock in front of his mistress, 
and by judicious pressure upon his stomach forced 
him to execute an angry bow to that lady as a finale 
to his performances. Miss Ransome, forsaken by 
her good genius, lapsed into ruinous reminiscence. 

"When we were at Deauville there was a 
poodle at the hotel who could walk as well on his 
forelegs, with his hind ones in the air, as on all 
four. My mother was so pleased with him that 
she wanted to buy him ; but the lady to whom he 
belonged — she was not quite a lady ; she was 
with the Prince de Compifegne — would not hear of 
parting with him. Claire could never bear not 
getting what she wished ; so we had a scene 
about it one night on the stairs." 

This interesting trait was followed by absolute 

" There is nothing for it but patience, I sup- 
pose ! " said Mrs. Tancred, a little later, when 


Bonnybell, not enjoying the atmosphere which 
she had created, expressed herself tired and 
went to bed ; and Edward answered, with brief 
acquiescence — 

" I suppose not" 


A WEEK had elapsed, and a morning came on 
which Edward set off for London accompanied 
by his wife, instead of, as usual, alone ! The 
result was obvious : freedom — temporary, indeed ! 
but still freedom for Miss Ransome, But of 
what use was that noblest of God's gifts to one 
who had no means of employing it ? 

" Don't get into mischief if you can help it," 
was Camilla's parting benediction ; and the smiling 
humility of Bonny bell's " I will try not," took an 
ambiguous meaning as she turned it over after- 
wards in the leisure and liberty of her own mind. 
"Try not to get into mischief?" or "Try not 
to help getting into mischief? How can I help 
helping ? What mischief could I get into if I 

This problem set her pondering. If she were 
to borrow Camilla's cutting-out scissors from her 
work-basket, she might cut snips in the canvases 
of those dismal primitifs. If she were to em- 
ploy the aid of a poker, she might break the 
nose of the young Augustus coldly glimmering 
at her from his pedestal in the centre of the litde 
circular vestibule at the stairs' foot. But in neither 



of these, nor in any analogous crimes, would there 
be much point nor any enjoyment. 

In her total destitution of all opportunities 
for evil, the poor young creature snatched eagerly 
at the one sin — though it was only a paltry one 
of omission — open to her ; the entire neglect of 
the tasks assigned her by her departed tyrant. 
It relieved her to kick the instruments of her in- 
tended elevation and enlightenment into a corner, 
and when " L'Enigme du P6che " — a work whose 
very title would make Camilla's straight hair break 
into horrified curls — was produced from its hiding- 
place ; when the little shoes lately employed in 
propelling Greene, Bryce, etc., were hoisted to 
the top of the nursery fender, which still stood in 
long-unneeded precaution before the generous 
grate, Bonnybell's conscience grew clear. Her 
power of doing wrong in her present surround- 
ings was infinitesimal, but she had done what 
she could. To do what one could ! — this was a 
standard beyond which Mrs. Tancred herself did 
not attempt to rise. At the ingenious perversity 
of this reflection, Bonnybell laughed delightedly. 

She had been in the enjoyment of her illicit 
pleasures for an hour and a half, and had begun 
to suspect that the solution of the "Enigma" 
would form a plat too highly spiced for even 
her seasoned palate, when the door opened. She 
whisked her feet down from their dizzy height 
and sat up, to find a salver, a note, and a footman 
at her elbow. 

" Any answer ? " she asked, taking the note 
and looking at its superscription curiously. The 


handwriting was at once familiar and unfamiliar ; 
known, but not lately known. 

"The chauffeur wished to know how soon 
you would like the motor to come round ? " 

" The chauffeur ? The motor ? " repeated she, 
staring; then, bethinking herself that the best 
way to solve this new enigma would be the same 
as that which she had been employing on the other, 
she tore open the envelope and read — 

" My darling little Bonnybell, — 

(The unaccountable warmth of this opening 
took her eye to the signature, " Flora." 

" Of course ! How stupid not to have 
remembered Flora Tennington's scrawls and 
flourishes ! ") 

" I have just heard from Harrington " 
(so Harrington is still with Flora, is he ?) " that 
he had seen your ugly old gaoler and her souffre 
douleur at the station and off to London, so I have 
sent the motor to fetch you to spend the day. 
If it comes back without you I shall go on sending 
it until it brings you, dead or alive. I have 
millions of things to say and Usk. 

" Your loving 

" Flora. 

" P.S. — You will meet two friends, a new 
and an old one." 

Miss Ransome's decision must be immediate. 
The expectant footman was still at her elbow 
awaiting orders. She threw her cap over the 


" I shall be ready in ten minutes." 

The decision — given the deep disgrace from 
which she had so lately emerged — sounded like 
madness ; but a streak of reason ran through it. 
Her host and hostess had announced their intention 
of returning by a later train than the one that 
usually brought Edward ; the servants would, in 
all probability, not tell upon her. Camilla's own 
lifelong maid, a young lady of fifty-five, had, 
shordy before Bonnybell arrived, yielded to the 
urgencies of a bridegroom, become too pressing 
to be longer resisted, to crown by marriage an 
engagement of thirty years. Her present atten- 
dant was a young person whom she had employed 
because nobody else would, and in order to 
make her a character. But what decided Miss 
Ransome to take the plunge was the postscript, 
" You will meet two friends, a new and an old 

" An old friend ! " This by itself would act 
as a deterrent. It must be a man, since Claire 
and she never had any women friends after Flora 
dropped them, and of the men who formed her 
circle, there was not one concerning whom her 
most ardent wish was never to hear of or meet 
him again. But " a new friend ! " Who could 
it be but Toby ? 

It was, perhaps, a stretch of language to give 
that name to a person, the sole evidence of whose 
meriting it was that he looked black when she 
entered the room, remained churlishly silent 
during the few minutes of their joint occupancy 
of it, and left it with a bang of discourteous haste 


to escape her. But, at all events, it was well 
worth trying, and in twenty minutes from her 
first reception of the proposition she was flying 
along between the tree-stems of the park, on her 
way to accept it. 

The motor was, to her relief, a brougham. 
To arrive touzled and stained — and she had not 
a proper motoring costume with her — would be 
to prejudice her chance of success at the outset. 
She must be pretty before all things. Whether 
her prettiness was to be further ornamented by a 
sweet innocence or a daring raciness of conversation 
must depend upon what a further acquaintance 
with Toby's tastes and methods might reveal. If 
he were an habitue of Flora's, the latter of the 
two alternatives was the one more likely to please. 
But her deep-seated and universal distrust of man 
— falsified though it had been in the case of 
Edward by a fortnight's acquaintance — made her 
finally resolve to temper her raciness, if she was 
racy, with caution. 

Arrived, after a quarter of an hour's whirl, 
Bonnybell found Flora in a hot room, crammed 
with flowers and hric-a-hrac, whose very atmo- 
sphere brought back, with a rush of starded 
repulsion, to the girl's memory the atmosphere 
that she had breathed through her own childhood 
and early youth. During the last period of her 
mother's life it had been further improved by 
the continual perfume of champagne and drugs ; 
but the present one, though free from these 
ingredients, was like enough to make her realize 
how far she had travelled from what it represented. 


and to wish that she had not come, particularly as 
no vestige of a redeeming Toby showed on the 
naked horizon. 

Flora was too much occupied at the moment 
of her guest's arrival to spare time for any 
greeting. She was sitting on the floor, as was 
Harrington, the broken-down gentleman who 
was coeval with Flora in Bonnybell's acquaintance 
with that lady ; the broken-down gentleman who, 
beginning by being her lover, had ended by being 
her major-domo. 

Upon Flora's lap sat the little old dachshund 
Lisa, down whose throat Harrington was trying 
to drive a pill. By holding her mouth tight shut, 
and stroking her throat, the object was supposed 
to have been, after many previous failures, attained. 
The fallacy of the deduction was proved an hour 
later by the pill being found intact on the front 
stairs, showing that the wily Lisa had, after all, 
bested her physicians ; but for the present, lulled 
in a false security, Lisa's mistress was able to 
remember her visitor's presence. 

" Wasn't it fortunate that Harrington should 
have happened to be at the station just in time 
to see your old monster get into the train ? I 
said to myself, ' Now is my time.' I had been 
puzzling my head as to how I was going to get 
at you. I could not come after you. You know 
I am tolerably faci/e a vivre, but I cannot stand 
that old woman." 

Truth is truth, even if inverted, and Bonnybell 
did not think it necessary to point out that in this 
case it was standing on its head ; since, in point 



of fact, it was " that old woman " who had never 
been able to " stand " Lady Tennington. 

"I had scarcely a word with you at the 
Aylmers'," continued Flora, raising her rather 
bulky form from the floor by the aid of 
Harrington, whom she immediately afterwards 
sent out of the room. " You were packed ofF to 
Meg and that odious prig of a governess for fear 
that I should corrupt your mind, I suppose." 

She laughed, both with cosmetic-ed lips and 
with eyes that, though brazenly bistered, were 
joUy and good-natured, at the humour of such a 
thing being possible ; and Bonnybell laughed too, 
though with a surprised sense of annoyance at the 
unlimited knowledge of evil attributed to her. 

" I corrupted theirs instead," she replied, with 
a humorous gloom. 

"The governess's and Meg's ?" with an accent 
of delighted interest. " Oh, how it must have 
improved them ! " 

As she spoke, she held out an expensive and 
floridly coronetted cigarette-case to the girl, who 
pounced upon it as the camel upon a desert pool. 

" Oh, how delicious ! how I have longed and 
thirsted for one ! Savory ? " 

" Yes, I always stick to them." 

There was a short silence of rapturous enjoy- 
ment on Bonnybell's part. Flora had pushed her 
into a luxurious chair, and the smoke was going 
up to heaven from her pink nostrils. She was 
beginning to be glad of her iniquity, even though 
the Toby for whom it was committed had proved 
to be but a mirage. 


" How did you corrupt their minds ? " The 
question shared Lady Tennington's mouth with 
a cigarette ; but, though a little inarticulate from 
this cause, the relish in it was unmistakable. 

" I got into a dreadful scrape. They came 
and complained of me next day." 

The interest aroused by this statement van- 
quished material enjoyment, and Lady Tennington 
took the " Savory " from between her rosy lips, 
and sat up. 

" What did you say ? " 

"Will you believe it?" replied Bonnybell, 
sitting up too, her eyes sparkling intensely in the 
relief and enjoyment of having at length found a 
confidant certain to sympathize in the grievous 
wrong done her. "All that I said was — I was 
looking at a silly little newspaper with Meg, and 
I happened to mention — we had come to a picture 
of Cressida Beaulieu and her Schipperkes — that 
Waddy ran her. Could you imagine that there 
was any one in the world so ignorant as not to 
know that Waddy ran Cressida ? " 

" It is inconceivable," replied Flora, in an 
almost awed tone ; and there was a moment or 
two of wondering and compassionate silence on 
the part of both. 

"They came and laid a formal complaint 
against me next day, and I was sent for down 
from my studies — I was at my studies, if you 
please " — with a delightful little grimace. 

" Your studies ! " laughing significantly. " I 
should have thought that you knew as much as 
most people." 


At this ambiguous compliment something in 
Bonnybell once again felt jarred. 

" Oh, what a time I had of it ! " she exclaimed, 
gliding with only half-unconscious distaste from 
the subject of her own discreditable omniscience. 
" What a scolding ! " 

" From that hateful old prude } " 

" Yes, from Camilla. But she is not quite all 
hateful. I thought she was at first, but she isn't. 
After having ground me to powder — while those 
two women looked on— oh, I should like to be 
even with them ! — she told me she would give 
me another chance ! It doesn't sound any great 
catch," beginning to laugh heartily ; " but I can 
assure you that I was very much relieved, as I 
felt certain that I was going to be turned out 
then and there, neck and crop." 

" I wish you had. I should have got you for 
good then." 

The phrase, in one sense, was scarcely a happy 
one, since it could not, by any stretch of language, 
be considered a good thing for any young woman 
to be taken under the soiled and tarnished wing of 
Lady Tennington. 

Bonnybell's heart did not in the least echo the 
aspiration, but her lips brought out their " It 
would have been too delightful for words ! " with 
their accustomed lying glibness. 

She looked with pretty, grateful affection at 
her hostess as she spoke, asking herself alternately 
whether it was that she had forgotten Flora, or 
that the latter had lost her eye and donned a 
greenlier gold wig than of yore, imparted a more 


sealing-waxy red to her mouth, and laid the 
powder on her nose, thick as snow on the summit 
of the Jung Frau, without knowing it. 

"Tell me some more," said the unconscious 
object of these silent queries, in the delighted 
voice of a child asking for the repetition of a 
favourite fairy tale. " Ah, here is Charlie 
Landon ? I told you you would meet an old 
friend. You must begin all over again for him." 


So this was the "old friend" with whom the 
hook for her had been partially baited ! Charlie 
Landon, the hero of that dinner at the Reservoir at 
Versailles ; Charlie Landon, the odious old volup- 
tuary most detested by her of all her mother's 
disreputable entourage; the one whose degrading 
admiration and nauseous overtures she had had the 
most difficulty in keeping within decent bounds ; 
Charlie Landon 1 

Was it to meet Charlie Landon, whom she 
would have compassed sea and land to avoid, that 
she had imperilled her salvation ? — for indeed the 
sure refuge of the house into which she had 
found admittance seemed to her, in this sudden 
terror of deservedly losing it, to spell no less a 
thing. She had never seen the hateful old satyr 
face since the Versailles evening, as some blessed 
accident summoned its owner back to England on 
the day following it. 

That Flora was quite ignorant of her young 
guest's attitude of mind towards her old one 
was evident both from that known good-nature 
of hers, which would never willingly place any two 
people in an uncomfortable situation, and also 

1 66 


from the fact that before Charlie had become a 
prominent person in the ever-narrowing circle of 
Claire's friends, Flora had seen herself obliged 
to withdraw from it personally. 

Lady Tennington rather liked Charlie. He 
did not make love to her, and she would not 
have minded if he had, and his fund of indelicate 
anecdotes amused her. It was upon his own re- 
presentation of the affectionate intimacy existing 
between himself and the young girl — for in the 
accomplishment of lying Charlie could have given 
Bonnybell herself points — that the invitation to 
meet him had gone forth veiled in the anonymity 
which was most likely to produce the desired 

Perhaps it was because Miss Bonnybell's 
features, though equally practised in dissimula- 
tion, were not so expert at it as her tongue, but 
certainly it was that something which was not of 
the expected quality had expressed itself in the girl's 
fuce, and given a surprised and interrogative quality 
to Flora's next words. 

" Charlie wanted to go and fetch you, but 1 
would not let him. I wanted to have the pleasure 
of seeing your pleasure at so unexpected a meet- 
ing. He tells me that you became such dear 
fi-iends after — after I left Paris." 

But by this time Miss Ransome was herself 
again. Charlie would be a dangerous enemy, and 
might let out or purposely disclose circumstances 
in her past history — circumstances due not to her 
fault, indeed, but to her misfortune — yet does 
the world ever nicely discriminate between the 


two ? — which might seriously prejudice her future. 
She had no more doubt of Charlie's vindictive- 
ness than of his sensuality, and there was as much 
need to be on guard against the one as against 
the other. So she submitted her hand, which he 
insisted upon kissing, to his clasp, and answered 
with perfect civility — 

" Yes, it is quite a surprise. I had not an 
idea that Colonel Landon was down here." 

" Colonel Landon ! " repeated he, with an 
aifectation of reproachful astonishment. " How 
formal we have grown all of a sudden ! " 

There was an odious implication of former 
intimacy in his tone, and Flora, who had begun 
to laugh at it, stopped suddenly, arrested by the 
undisguisable repulsion which pierced through the 
set smile on her young friend's face. 

"You would not wonder at anything," she 
cried hastily, "if you knew the sort of people 
the poor thing has fallen amongst. Do tell 
Charlie, Bonnybell, about your experiences with 
the Aylmers ; he would be so much amused, and 
I could not hear them too often." 

But Bonnybell had, with all her knowledge of 
Charlie's power of revengeful tit-for-tat in the case 
of a supposed snub, done as much for him as she 
could for the moment manage, and she excused 
herself with pretty ingenuity, asserting, with a 
smile that was ordered still to keep well to the 
front, that the anecdote could be entertaining only 
to a person acquainted with the Aylmer family, 
and would lose all its point in the case of one 
who had not that advantage. Inwardly, while 


uttering her little apology for refusing, she was 
sharply regretting that her glove had been taken 
off previous to the "old friend's " detested caress, 
and wondering how soon she would cease to be 
conscious of it on the back of her hand. 

The announcement of luncheon put a welcome 
end to the importunities to which her refusal 
subjected her. The sight of one more place laid 
at the table than there were occupants for made 
her draw the inference that the " new friend " had 
been expected, and had failed to appear, but she 
waited in vain for some comment upon his absence. 
To Lady Tennington's easy-going board people 
came or not as they chose. If they appeared at 
it, so much the better ; if they didn't appear at 
it, not so very much the worse. In Flora's circle 
promises and engagements did not go for much, 
nor did the breaking of them cause her either 
annoyance or surprise. 

The conversation at the repast was chiefly In 
Charlie's hands and under his guidance. He was 
a past-master in the art of double-entendre^ and 
had a power that It would be difficult to surpass 
of giving to the most plain and innocent sentences 
an indecent meaning. From oiF the guileless backs 
of most English girls Charlie's conversation could 
fall in a harmless cascade, as being too bad to be 
understood, but there was not one of his innuen- 
does and perverse twistings of the commonplaces of 
speech that Bonnybell did not fully comprehend, 
with the added knowledge that he knew that she 
did so. 

Flora called him to order once or twice, but 


not very severely. Charlie was really very amus- 
ing ; and, after all, Bonnybell was not like other 
girls. It was such a comfort that one need not 
be on one's P's and Q's with her. 

Scarcely ever, in all the reach of her eighteen 
years' memory, had Miss Ransome sat at a feast 
— and Flora's cuisine deserved that title — with 
a more uneasy and unenjoying mind. Not even 
the unwonted solace of as many post-luncheon 
cigarettes as she could desire at all compensated her 
for the distastefulness of the company, or for the 
racking twin anxieties that occupied her mind ; 
the anxiety to get home as fast as possible, so as 
to obviate all risk of discovery incident upon 
a possible change of plan in Mr. and Mrs. 
Tancred, and to prevent Charlie from escorting 
her. All her manoeuvres to get her hostess alone 
in order to ask for her aid in obtaining this latter 
boon having failed, she had to content herself 
with the meagre consolation that, at all events, 
she would have the chaperonage of the chauffeur. 

Immediately after luncheon the rest of the 
party sat down to dummy bridge. It was not 
without loud outcries on the part of two of her 
companions, and some umbrage at the gentle fixity 
of her determination not to make a fourth — for 
Harrington never dared show umbrage at anything 
— that Bonnybell escaped their upbraiding im- 
portunities. If she allowed herself to acquiesce, 
Heaven knows how long she might be chained to 
the card-table, when once they had got hold of 
her, and her longed-for departure postponed if 
she was not firm. But it was not without paying 


the toll of some gibing jests at her benefactors' 
expense — jests which she did not in the least 
enjoy, and which caused her an unexpected sub- 
sequent remorse — that she was let off, and given 
the inspiriting promise that the motor should be 
at the door in half an hour's time. She waited 
to hear the message really given, and then to 
escape the pursuit of Charlie's eyes, which, though 
not so good as they had been, were still only too 
embarrassing, she left the trio, to resume her hat 
and wraps. 

In former days Bonnybell had never been in 
time for anything, but to-day, though twenty 
minutes must elapse before the motor was due, 
she stood restless and troubled, awaiting its arrival 
in a conservatory which opened out of the room 
in which the players had settled down to their 
mutilated gamble. She could hear, between the 
deals, Charlie firing off his doubk-entendres to 
lighten the seriousness of the pursuit, and Flora's 
stimulating rebuke, " Oh, come, Charlie, that is 
rather too stiff. You must remember that we 
have zfille h marier on the premises," And then 
they all laughed. 

Well they might ! thought the listener, A 
fille h marier ! And yet that was precisely what 
she was ! With what other purpose but the 
insane one of furthering that object was she 
there } And how likely were such a milieu and 
atmosphere to promote it I 

The conservatory was a long one, and by walk- 
ing to the end of it she could get out of earshot 
of the bridge-players. Why go on listening to 


Charlie for twenty minutes, if she could help it ? 
A cluster of wicker chairs stood under a palm, and 
into the cushions of one of them she sank, looking 
round with uneasy eyes upon the mass of bloom 
about her. She did not care a straw about flowers 
in their natural and out-door state, and forced ones 
represented to her mind out-of-season extrava- 
gances of ten and twenty-five guinea January 
bouquets — represented to her the past and 

What a fool she had been ! Had ever any one 
risked so much to gain so little ? Thinking it 
over coolly — that was just what she could not do, 
since so much was at stake — what were the odds 
in favour of her getting home undetected ? Even 
if she did so, the danger was by no means over. 
A slip of the tongue, a stupidity, a malice on the 
part of one of the servants, happening any time 
during the next six months, might wreck her. 
She must be very, very civil and pleasant to the 
whole establishment. If she got any itrennes in 
the shape of money, she would have to tip them 
heavily ; and yet even so, she would never be 
able to be quite free from anxiety. 

She trusted to be put out of suspense as to her 
worst fear — that of a premature return from 
London on the part of the Tancreds — in half an 
hour from the present moment. The return 
journey could not take more than fifteen or 
twenty minutes. 

Her worst fear ! Wasn't there yet a worse 
than the worst .'' — the fear that Charlie might th's 
time carry his point, and insist on escorting her 


back ? Since the motor was a brougham, of what 
possible use or protection could the chauffeur be ? 
Should she beg Harrington to come too ? But it 
was a single brougham ! 

The sound of steps approaching roused her. 
Well, this was a bit of luck 1 She would get off 
sooner than she had thought possible ; for here 
was a footman coming to tell her that the ark 
of her salvation was at the door. But the 
owner of the nearing footfall did not wear Flora's 

" I was sent to look for you ! " observed a 
young and manly, but not very gracious voice. 

The heart of the f Ik h marier gave a jump up 
from her boots, to which it had latterly been sink- 
ing. Late, but not quite too late, here was the 
Toby for whom she had sacrificed, suffered, and 
imperilled so much ! 

" Oh, how glad I am 1 " 

This was perfectly true, but that was not at 
all the reason why she uttered it ! A rapid cal- 
culation resulted in the conclusion that in the 
very short time allotted to her, if she ever wished 
to make an effect — and oh, didn't she wish it .'' — the 
stroke of her brush must be broad. This was 
neither the place, the time, nor the object for 
caution. The impulsive pleasure of one too 
young and inexperienced to hide a keen pleasure 
that had taken her by surprise, the outbreak of 
an emotion too glad and strong to be kept in 
the leading-strings of convention, — this was the 
appearance to be aimed at, and which the full 
look which she allowed her large fawn eyes to 


take of his fresh-coloured stolid face told her was 

Toby, who, despite his stodgy shyness, was 
possessed of quite enough conceit to keep him in 
a competence, if not affluence, of self-esteem, saw 
no reason why he should doubt that this eiFusive 
young stranger was excessively glad to see 

The young stranger, on her part, was pleased 
to have made her meaning plain ; but, having 
done so, gave maiden modesty at having been 
surprised into such an admission its turn. 

"You must forgive my saying what seems 
silly and exaggerated, considering how little I 
know you ; but " Then a sudden inspira- 
tion came to the prettily embarrassed, and yet 
really harassed, young creature. Why not kill two 
birds with one stone ? Give herself an interest 
in the eyes of this block of a Toby, if he was 
stupid enough not to have already conceived 
one, by enlisting his sympathy and help ; and in 
so doing also baffle the abhorred Charlie ? No 
sooner thought than uttered, with no apparent 
hitch or hindrance in the smooth run of her 
sentence : " But the moment I saw you the 
thought struck me how much — how enormously 
you might help me if you would." 

"Help you? //" 

There was marked surprise in the tone, but 
there was also, if the hearer erred not, a hint of 
gratification and a willingness to hear more. 

" You give me the idea " — permitting herself 
to take timid stock of him as she spoke — " of being 


very determined, and able to make people mind 
what you say." 


Bonnybell hesitated a moment, both to heighten 
the evident curiosity that she had roused, and 
because she was divided between two or three 
artistic openings. But her time was running out. 
She must not allow herself to hesitate. 

" Is — is Colonel Landon a friend of yours ? " 

" Old Charlie Landon a friend of mine ? God 
forbid ! " 

There was such a distinct tone of oiFence at 
the suggestion in this robust disclaimer, that 
Bonnybell clasped her little black hands, which 
she had on several former occasions found to be 
so invaluable as " properties," in an ecstasy of 

" Oh, I am so glad ! " After all, it was pleasant 
and refreshing to tell truth as a change once in a 
way, and with a judicious economy. 

" I can't imagine how Lady Tennington 
could have asked you to meet such a beastly old 
reprobate ! " 

The stodgy face had lit up, and the vigour of 
its owner's vernacular found an echo in Miss Ran- 
some's inmost soul. 

"A beasdy old reprobate!" Oh, if Toby 
knew all ! Yet caution and the dread of Charlie's 
vengeance, and his power of revelation, prompted 
her to say — 

" I knew him when I was a child, and I 
should not like to hurt his feelings. But I am a 
little afraid that he will want to take me back to 


Stillington in the motor, and — and — it is a 
brougham ! " 

A quarter of an hour later Bonnybell was flash- 
ing homeward alone, having accidentally happened 
to mention to the preserver, whom she had success- 
fully enlisted in her service, the fact of her pas- 
sionate fondness for wandering in parks at winter 
gloamings, and having received from him in return 
information of almost excessive accuracy as to those 
parts of the Stillington Deer Park which might be 
safely visited at that time of year by a solitary 


All was safe. There had been no change of plan 
on the part of Miss Ransome's protectors, as, 
drawing a long breath, she realized on reaching 
home, and joyfully found the house as destitute 
of its masters as she had left it. To begin at 
once the attack upon the servants' clemency was 
her next care. Bonnybell had always been 
charming in her manner towards all dependants ; 
but the tone in which she now asked the butler 
after a sick wife whom Camilla had been doctor- 
ing, and told the housemaid, whom she found 
lighting her bedroom fire, how concerned she 
was to hear her still coughing, would have 
wiled " the savageness out of a bear." 

Her neglected studies were her next thought, 
but an unconquerable distaste towards resuming 
them made her persuade herself that it would be 
unsafe to run the risk of being found studying 
at so unusual an hour, and would lead to the 
inference that she had been playing the truant 
earlier. It would be better to take the least 
evadable books up to bed with her, and make 
what scrambling preparation she could before 

177 N 


going to sleep. While collecting her authors, the 
young student became aware of "L'Enigme du 
P6ch6 " lying in tell-tale openness on the floor, 
where it had evidently lain since it fell off her lap 
in the hurry of her departure. Another sigh of 
relief, almost as deep as the first, signalized this 
timely discovery. 

Camilla was in unusually good spirits at 
dinner that night. Her day, though she was 
strictly silent upon that part, had been tiring, 
boring, self-sacrificing. It had been devoted 
wholly to the unhealthy, the unprosperous, and 
the ungrateful. But apparently it had had a 
tonic efi^ect, and she ate her slender allowance of 
food with more apparent enjoyment, and talked 
more and more cheerfully, than usual. Perhaps 
it was because she talked more that Edward 
seemed to talk less than his never garrulous 

BonnybeU could wish that Mrs. Tancred's 
inclination to converse would have led her in 
another direction than inquiries as to the mode 
in which she, BonnybeU, had disposed of her soli- 
tary day, though those inquiries were made almost 
genially, and in the spirit of neither a school- 
mistress nor a spy. It was not that the girl was 
conscious of any new or even nascent disincli- 
nation for fibbing ; but when the whole field of 
invention lay open before her, it was so difficult 
to know which lie to choose. Lie she must, from 
beginning to end of the catechism that ensued, 
but she had no wish to be excessive, nor to daub 


where one coat of paint would serve her purpose. 
It was a pity that the servants had to hear her, as, 
of course, they must be laughing in their sleeves ; 
but the tips to be administered doubled them- 
selves in her intention, and she tried to forget the 
silent presences that might become so ruinously 

" Did you make up your mind to tear your- 
self from the fireside at all to-day ? " 

" Oh yes ; I was out a good deal." 

So far truth carried her, but nervousness made 
her add an unnecessary gloss, which was the 
falsest of falsehoods — in implication, at least — 

" I knew that you would wish me to take some 

" H'm ! how far did you go ? I dare say not 
farther than the houses. I know that the stove 
house is the kind of atmosphere you really 

Camilla was in wonderfully good tune ; there 
was even an attempt at genial raillery in her 

" Oh, but I did. I went muck, further." 

Truth again reappeared. It was as well to give 
that seldom-invoked goddess a look-in now and 

" To the summer-house ? " 

" Further still." 

" You did not, I am sure, risk those ridiculous 
little shoes of yours in the wet grass of the 
park ? " 

" Oh yes, I did ; they are stronger than 
they look. But I was sorry afterwards that 


I had. Jock got among the rabbit-holes, and 
though I whistled and called for ten minutes, 
I am sure, I could not persuade him to come 

There was a noise as of a small object falling 
on the floor. Edward, who was not generally- 
clumsy, had whisked a fork, with his coat-cuff 
apparently, on to the carpet. A footman picked it 
up, and the conversation proceeded. But Miss 
Ransome had caught a glimpse of her host's face, 
and a cold sweat broke out inside her. "Was it 
possible that Edward knew of her escapade ? 
There was nothing for it but to hope for the best, 
and to go on boldly, since she was already too far 
immersed in the sea of fancy to withdraw. And 
besides, what she had been relating of Jock's 
perversity was strictly true, only that it was post- 
dated by twenty-four hours, having happened 

With unconscious inhumanity, Camilla went 
on — 

" Jock must have had two walks to-day, 
then, for Gillett told me she had taken him 

Bonnybell's heart quailed. Suppose that 
Camilla next inquired at what hour her promenade 
with Jock had taken place, and that she herself 
in answer hit upon the same one as that already 
claimed by the maid ? 

" It must have been in the morning, then, 
that you took him out," continued Camilla, still 
perfectly unsuspicious, adding, with a sternness 
that was more affected than real, " You must 


have given him time that was filched from your 

"He looked so wistful," replied Bonnybell, 
post-dating Jock's expression of emotion, as she 
had done his iniquities. " It is so difficult to resist 
him when he looks wistful." 

This was a thrust directed at the one weak 
spot in Camilla's armour, and it penetrated at 

"What a bad dog ! " she said, in a ridiculously 
pseudo-angry voice. How different, as Bonny- 
bell ruefully reflected, from that employed to 
herself, for the far smaller crime of her attempt 
to educate Meg Aylmer ! " No biscuits to- 

In the execution of this threat Jock did not 
even affect credulity, but wagged a short black 
tail, which was in piquant contrast to the rest of 
his white body, and Bonnybell heaved her slender 
shoulders in a deep inspiration of relief, once again 
involuntarily stealing a look at Edward. She 
found him looking straight and full back at her, 
in the security of Camilla's occupation with the 
dog ; read in that look that he knew ; that since 
he had promised her his friendship he would not 
betray her, and that he despised her from the 
bottom of his heart. In point of fact, Edward 
was not much in the habit of despising any one 
but himself, but he might have made an exception 
in Bonnybell's favour. 

The belief that he had done so, at all events, 
depressed that young woman to such a degree 
as to impart an inattentive languor to her nightly 


dancing lesson to Jock. That unworthy animal 
took a base advantage of her absent-mindedness, 
and executed his part of the performance on all 
four feet, in a shabby, ambling run, which, not 
even by his partial mistress, could be classified as 
a " trick." 

" You seem to have tired yourself with your 
walk," observed Camilla, noticing the limp air 
of relief with which Miss Ransome subsided into 
a chair at the end of a display which was gene- 
rally a source of unmixed enjoyment to her. 
" Of course, I have no wish that you should 
overdo yourself; there is never any sense in 

Bonnybell drooped her head in silent acquies- 
cence. Circumstances prevented her defending 
herself from the charge of over-exercise by stating 
the fact that the longest walk she had to-day taken 
had been from one end of Lady Tennington's 
conservatory to the other, and she felt unequal 
for the moment to the framing of new inventions, 
which one of her hearers would be perfecdy aware 
to be such. 

"Perhaps it is because the wind has not 
caught your face to-day," continued Mrs. Tancred, 
in caustic but not hostile allusion to Bonny- 
bell's former explanation of her excess of bloom, 
" but you look pale to-night. Neither Edward — 
I think I may answer for you," with a scarcely 
inquiring spectacled glance at her husband — " nor 
I will take it amiss if you feel inclined to go to 

The girl accepted, with apologetic courtesy, 


which she tried not to make too eager. Not even 
the sight of the piled books by her bedside, heaped 
there with an intention of midnight study, could 
lessen the sense of relaxed tension in being alone. 
She was tired, dispirited, anxious, with sore disquiet 
for the future. 

Edward knew that she was a liar, and hated 
her for being one. More shame for him ! If he 
had been in her grievous straits, he would have 
lied too. It was very unsympathetic and bomi 
of him not to understand that ! Now that 
Charlie Landon was aware that she was in the 
neighbourhood, he would never leave her in 
peace. Did she not read an intention of persecu- 
tion in the baffled anger of his face when it was 
made clear to him by Flora that his escort was to 
be dispensed with ? 

Yes, the future was heavy with clouds, and she 
regarded it, as has been said, with some disquiet. 
Yet her repentance for the past was by no means 
complete. If Edward and Charlie — unnatural 
alliance of names ! — weighed down one scale of 
the balance, did not Toby in the other make it 
greatly out-dip them ? The campaign against 
Toby — hitherto existing only in aspiration and 
intention — had passed into the domain of fact. 
It had really and seriously opened, and how 
artistically too, by that sudden inspiration or 
an appeal for help. A stroke of such genius 
had enabled her to skip over at least a dozen 
preliminary steps, and rushed him into the pro- 
pitious situation of benefactor and rescuer before 
he knew where he was. 


" Never in my life have I managed to get 
hold of anything good or pleasant without having 
to pay heavily for it," she said to herself in bitter 
retrospect, " and I suppose that it will always be 
so ; but, at all events, this time I have something 
to show for my efforts ! ' Quite safe to walk 
anywhere between the belt of firs on the left of 
the big covert and the group of Spanish chestnuts 
near the gazebo.' Quite safe for me^ I suppose 
he meant 1 I would not swear that it was quite 
as safe for him ! " 

She fell asleep with an angelic smile on her 
parted lips at the thought of Toby's insecurity, 
the pile of unopened books forgotten beside 

An hour later a figure, who had carefully 
chosen that one of the electric burners to turn up 
whose light would not fall on the sleeper's face, 
stood by Bonnybell's bedside. 

"I do not think that that child is well," 
Camilla had said, after an interval of silence, 
addressing her husband ; " she seemed unnaturally 
depressed. Depression under such circumstances 
as hers would be natural and proper in any think- 
ing being, but as she certainly does not come 
under that head, there must be some other 

As she spoke Mrs. Tancred left her chair and 
the room. Her absence lasted for a quarter of an 
hour, and towards the end of it Edward grew 
restless ; that is to say, inwardly, for he allowed 
himself no change of posture that would recognize 
or indulge his uneasiness. Was she ill .? and if 


so, was hers the kind of constitution upon which 
illness would take much hold ? Both her parents 
had died when well under forty, but as neither 
of their deaths could be called natural ones, 
their shortlivedness could not be held to lend 
probability to hers, unless her mother's tendencies 
were hereditary. 

Camilla's re-entrance interrupted the shudder 
caused by the last supposition. 

" I was mistaken," she said calmly, though 
his eye noted the sign of an emotion of some 
kind on her harsh face ; " she was sleeping quite 

Both settled down again to their occupations, 
and a few minutes elapsed before Camilla, bring- 
ing out the words as one forced to make an 
admission against the grain, said — 

"I am afraid that my tendency is to judge 
people too severely ; and I believe that in the 
case of this unfortunate girl I may have done 

She paused, and he had time for an inwardly 
interjected wish that she had used some other 
adjective than that which, employed as a noun, 
had such an unsavoury significance when applied 
to a woman ! 

" I am led to think that some glimmer of a 
sense of right and wrong is awakening in her ; 
that I trace some germ of a desire for better 
things ! " 

Again she halted, and he threw in a " Yes ? " 

"You heard at dinner to-day how she had 
conquered her dislike to leaving the fireside in 


deference to my wishes ; it came out quite un- 
ostentatiously — not as if she were making a merit 
of it." 

Perhaps it was surprise at the change in his 
wife's tone that hindered Tancred from expressing 
that pleased acquiescence in their joint incubus's 
improvement which might have been expected ; 
but neither did he give any sign of dissent. 

" And though she could not have expected a 
visit from me to-night — I have never before gone 
near her," continued Camilla, in the key of one 
resolved to make her amends for possible former 
injustice handsome and complete — "she had 
evidently taken to heart my reproach of having 
wasted the time, that should have been devoted to 
study, upon the dog." (When Camilla occasion- 
ally tried to make her family believe that she was 
indifferent to Jock, she spoke of him as "the 
dog.") "The poor girl had evidently been at 
work until overtaken by sleep, for the books were 
piled at her bedside." 

Edward must make some comment now, and 
must try not to let it be too stony ; but the 
" Indeed ! how very creditable ! " which he at 
last brought out sounded to himself so coldly 
ironical that it must rouse his wife's suspicions 
by its contrast with his former championship. 
To his relief, he soon perceived that she was 
occupied by a train of thought, and stirred by an 
emotion which blunted her powers of observation. 

" She looked very sweet and innocent," Mrs. 
Tancred said, in a softened tone, as one recalling 
a gentle, dreamy vision ; " all traces of her terrible 


heredity wiped away by sleep ! " After a short 
pause in a lower key, "The All Wise gave one 
more proof of All Wisdom in denying me the 
blessing of children, for I should have made idols 
of them." 


It was a source of mixed wonder and thankfulness 
to Miss Ransome on the succeeding day that she 
got off so cheaply when the discovery of the 
extent to which she had neglected her studies was 
made. The rebuke incurred was so inexplicably 
gentle, that though by this time BonnybeU was 
pretty well acquainted with the directness of her 
instructress's methods, she at first suspected that a 
trap must lie beneath it. She did not know that 
she had been saved by her usual means, a lie ; 
only that in this case it was an innocent and 
unintentional one, the lie, namely, of the piled 
books at her bedside. She escaped with a more 
sorrowful than indignant expression of opinion 
from CamiUa as to the slenderness of her intellect 
and her inability to grasp any subjects other than 
those appertaining to the cult of the frivolous and 
the trashy. 

Insults to her intellect left Miss Ransome 
perfecdy calm. She had long believed the truth 
of the saying that " Hard words break no bones," 
having been dieted upon expletives and adjec- 
tives both vigorous and varied whenever "poor 
Claire " was " not quite right." Were her mind 



furnished as Camilla would have it, she might 
become a second Miss Barnacre, and all that she 
would know of men would be the banging of 
doors by them, in hastening from her presence 
whenever she lifted up her voice in the odious 
terminology of science and philosophy. 

Snubs to her appearance, occasionally admin- 
istered on hygienic principles by Mrs. Tancred, 
left her equally good-humoured, though from 
another cause. Having grown up with her 
beauty from babyhood, she was as sure of pos- 
sessing it as she was of possessing hands or a 
palate. Any one who did not think her pretty 
must be either blind or jesting. It was valued 
highly by her, as being the only means of escape 
she had from the sordid darkness of her outlook. 
But it was not the source of pleasure to her 
which their good looks afforded to most hand- 
some women. It had been associated with too 
many disagreeables ; had obliged her to struggle 
against too many imminent degradations, for her 
to have much fondness for it, apart from its 
commercial value as a matrimonial asset. 

The serenely sweet acquiescence with which 
Miss Ransome received the information given as 
to the unusual smallness of the mind power with 
which she had been endowed still further increased 
her teacher's leniency. 

" She thinks that I am half-witted," said 
Miss Ransome to herself, " and it will certainly 
be wiser to encourage her in the idea, as she will 
expect less of me. In her present mood I might 
safely finish ' L'Enigme du P6ch6 ' without fear of 


detection, but " — with a slight sense of unwonted 
repulsion — " I don't think I care to ; it is too like 

To escape the odious memory evoked, Bonny- 
bell diverted her thoughts into another channel. 
" What induced her to come up to my room last 
night ? I felt sure it was because she had found 
me out, and I thought it safer to sham being 
asleep till I could make up my mind what excuse 
to offer. And why, in Heaven's name, did she 
kiss me ? " 

The girl lost herself in contradictory solutions 
of this enigma. Was it in order to test the reality 
of her slumbers or to break them that Camilla 
had inflicted that astounding caress ? Or was it 
humanly possible that the poor old lady was 
growing a little fond of her, and treated her as she 
would have done a young Camilla ? The notion, 
to her own surprise, touched her oddly at first, 
but she shook off the sensation almost indig- 
nantly. How likely ! She drove away her 
own inchoate softness by exchanging it for the 
ridiculous thought of what a hideous object a 
sleeping young Camilla would have been, and how 
impossible that in wildest fancy she could have 
been mistaken for such an imaginary monster. 

" I always knew that Camilla would be easier 
to take in than Edward," pursued Miss Ransome, 
a rather anxious wrinkle furrowing her brow ; 
"and it is unlucky that just as I had brought 
him round, his belief in me should have received 
this fresh shock. With him now I have, I am 
afraid, my work cut out." 


The ensuing days justified this forecast. 
There could be no doubt that Edward was in 
possession of the fact that she had taken " the key 
of the fields." " He must have heard it at the 
stables," was Bonnybell's conclusion ; "but how 
could I ward off that ? How could I ask all the 
grooms and helpers after their colds, or offer 
them anti-kamnia for their wives' neuralgias ? In 
this case I am not to blame. It is my misfortune, 
not my fault." 

Misfortune or fault, the result remained the 
same ; Edward did not betray her. It did not 
surprise her that he refrained from doing so, 
though it was only doubtfully that she attributed 
his silence to loyalty to that promise of friend- 
ship which she had extracted from him. 

Loyalty to given promises was not a quality 
with which she had ever had more than a bowing 
acquaintance. In all probability it was a taste for 
peace, coupled with the knowledge of what a 
terrific household storm his communication would 
arouse, that sealed his lips. Doubtless during the 
last fifteen years he had had frequent need of 
reticences and concealments on his own account. 
But whatever the cause of his conduct, Miss 
Ransome had regretfully to own that it was not 
due to any of that lurking partiality for herself, 
with which she had, up to yesterday evening, 
credited him. If his eye met hers — a rencounter 
apparently neither sought nor avoided — no grain 
of admiration was to be detected in its cold beam. 
A repelled curiosity, a sort of frosty wonder was 
all that was to be read in it. 


However, a philosophic mind is able to see 
the good derivable from even the least propitious 
set of circumstances. There was an advantageous 
side even to Edward's objectionable attitude. 
She would never be in the least afraid of being 
left alone in the same room with him. The fears 
apparently were all on the other side. She 
laughed to herself jeeringly. Would any one 
believe it ? And yet it was true, that without 
overtly seeming to seek that end, her host 
undoubtedly avoided her. 

She set herself with all the power of the wits 
her benefactress held so cheaply to propitiate him. 
But it was a path beset with pitfalls. His ideas, 
springs of action, standards were so radically 
different from those she had been used to find 
in the men of her acquaintance, that experience 
lent no candle to light her steps. She had learnt, 
indeed, by the process of burning her fingers at the 
flame kindled at one taper, that any discussion of 
Camilla's body or mind, any comments on her 
actions, however mendaciously flattering, were 
to be shunned like the plague. But even thus 
much of progress was negative, and held out litde 
hope, as a method of rebuilding his good opinion. 
What were his weak spots ? And what chance 
had she of finding them out, if he never indulged 
her in any enlightening talk about himself? It 
was chiefly interest and the desire for a valuable 
ally in her arduous life battle that prompted her 
efforts to bring him round, but mixed with it was 
a worthier regret at having forfeited the only 
chance of a pure and honourable friendship with 


a man that her short ignoble life had yet offered 

For several days she cast her little cautious 
nets in vain. Not a worthless sprat did the 
meshes enfold when drawn to land. He must 
be vulnerable somewhere, if only it were given 
her to discover the spot. The days passed in 
the fruitless search, and by the time the second 
Sunday came round since the disaster of her 
falsehood — or, as she would have it, the disaster 
of its discovery — she was almost desperate of 
success. On that day an idea struck her, which 
she hastened to put into execution. Luncheon 
was just over. Camilla had retired to her 
weekly stock-taking of her spiritual condition, and 
Edward was in the act of withdrawing himself, as 
he had done on the previous Sunday, for the 
whole afternoon. This self-eiFacement of his might 
have had its advantages, by leaving her free to 
carry out any innocent project of her own, but the 
motive that prompted it was at once too obvious 
and too distressing in its results not to demand 
one more urgent effort for its renewal. He had 
the door-handle already in his hand, when she 
addressed him so pointedly that politeness — and 
in that, at all events, he had never been lacking 
— compelled him to pause a moment to listen. 

" I noticed," she said, with what sounded like 
the painful diffidence of one making a great effort 
over herself, " that you did not go to the Dower 
House last Sunday." 

" No." There was a slight inflection of 
chilly surprise in his monosyllable. 


" 1 do not think that you have been there 
since the day you kindly took me to tea ? " 

" No ? " The monosyllable was interrogative 
this time, and seemed discouragingly to ask what 
the drift of these idle remarks might be. 

" I think I have understood that you always 
used to go there every Sunday afternoon ? " 

It was on the edge of his lips to say carelessly 
that he believed he did call on the Aylmers now 
and then ; but with a timely realization of the 
necessity of giving her the example of a rigid 
truthfulness he answered, still with that daunting 
air of cold wonder as to her purpose in putting 
the question, that such had been his weekly habit. 

" You wiU forgive me if I am mistaken," she 
said, with a half-frightened meekness that would 
have wiled " the savageness out of a bear," " but 
I have sometimes been afraid that I had come 
between you and your friends." 

She had hit the nail so exactly on the head, 
that the nearest approach to denial of her sugges- 
tion within his reach was a " You ? " that sounded 
to himself a contemptible paltering with the truth, 
and to her a cold snubbing of her presumption. 

" I am not so siUy as to dream that any liking 
for me was your motive," Bonnybell went on 
with an exquisite humility. "Why should you 
like me ? What is there to like in me } " (The 
question was accompanied by a sorrowful smile 
which evoked within its executor the reflection, 
" If that harrowing contortion does not fetch him, 
I may as well shut up shop ! ") " But I feared 
that perhaps your generosity had resented their 


unnecessarily harsh treatment of such a forlorn 
creature ! " 

Answer to this speech would in any case have 
been difficult, and apparently Edward found it 
more than difficult, impossible, for he made none ; 
and with a more dragging tone and a heavier 
spirit Miss Ransome took up her apparently 
useless little parable. 

" If I am mistaken, I can only ask you to for- 
give me — I am always having to ask people to 
forgive me — but I could not bear the idea of 
coming between you and — people you are fond 

" Thank you ; but indeed you need not 
distress yourself. I am going to the Dower 
House to-day," he answered, with his usual 
gentle intonation, perhaps a little hurried from 
its wonted leisureliness, and so left the room, 
giving her no opportunity for a rejoinder. 

Bonnybell, left to herself thus cursorily, walked 
to the Venetian mirror nearest her, carrying with 
her as nearly as possible the expression her face 
had worn during this last successless venture, in 
order to judge of what ought to have been its 
efficacy ; and then, exhaling a large sigh, solilo- 
quized, " H'm ! I might as well have saved my 
eloquence, my magnanimity, the tremble in my 
voice (I am afraid that I am not quite sparing 
enough in the use of that), and my heartbroken 
smile, which really was a masterpiece in its way. 
Bah ! and all for one poor harmless indispensable 
fib ! What a ridiculously warped view to take ! " 
She gave a little snort of indignation, but the 


place where her heart ought to be, and as she had 
always supposed was not, felt oddly sore. 

Neither had Edward's heart much leap about 
its actions as he took his way — the way weekly 
trod by his Sunday feet — to the house where until 
a fortnight ago he had found pleasant, if not exces- 
sive, entertainment for his spirit. It shocked him 
to find how laggardly that spirit guided him to- 
day. There was nothing changed in the reciprocal 
attitude of the Aylmers and himself. Mrs. 
Aylmer would give him the geniality of her matter- 
of-course welcome, and to whomsoever Catherine 
was talking at the moment of his entrance, he 
would find her — for it was an unwritten law of 
their recognized comradeship — by his side in as 
many or as few moments as civility — for Catherine 
was nothing if not civil — demanded to rid her of 
her interlocutor. He was always treated like one 
of the family, but to-day the kind imitation of 
kinship offered had no charm for him ; and he 
felt a dead reluctance towards the occupation 
of that wainscoted recess, with none of the secre- 
tiveness of a corner, yet all its privacy, where in 
the course of a good many consecutive Sundays 
his gende friend with the candid if not quite 
straight eyes had made him the happy master 
of her sentiments about some of the greatest 
themes upon which our poor intelligences turn 
the dark lanterns of their groping speculations, 
and, pleasanter still, had lured some of his own 
shy imaginings out of him. Cart-ropes should 
not drag him to that friendship-hallowed window- 
seat this afternoon. And yet he must not hurt the 


feelings of his comrade ! Why shouldn't he ? 
The question rose rather brutally in his mind. 
He had had no scruples as to hurting the feel- 
ings of another person, of one whose wretched 
circumstances claimed a much tenderer handling 
than the full-blown prosperity of Miss Aylmer. 

He stopped in his walk to look up as if in 
interrogation to the ash-coloured sky, hung so 
low over his head, that it seemed as if touchable 
by an uplifted hand. 

" How long can I keep up the pretence of 
harshness with the poor little creature ? Why 
should I be angrier with her than I was with 
Jock for killing rats in the barn yesterday ? Both 
follow their nature ; she her shifty lying one. 
She is a liar ! Yes, but am 1 not one too ? Is 
not my whole life an actual lie ? If it had only 
been one or two" — his thoughts harping in ex- 
asperated pain on Bonnybell's delinquencies — 
" they might have been accidents, the result of 
that abject fear she evidently feels towards us 
both. But the dreadful ghbness of it ! the 
plausibility ! the circumstantiality ! " The circum- 
stantiality brought him to the Dower House 
door, and rang the bell for him. 


The moon unexpectedly lighted Mr. Tancred 
home. As if she had something agreeable to show 
him, she had shoved and elbowed aside the smoke- 
coloured curtains, drawn so closely across the sky 
when he arrived, and though still vapourish and 
a little sickly, gave radiance enough by which to 
distinguish objects. At first her lamp seemed 
officious. He could find his way home blind- 
folded along the familiar path, but before the end 
of his walk he discovered a use for it. 

The evening air was mild and mawkish, and 
it was not because he was chilly that he covered 
the ground quickly. It was unlikely — scarcely 
possible — that anything untoward could have 
happened during his hour's absence ; yet he 
had heard something at the Dower House which 
made him eager to verify by his own eyesight the 
fact that the terrible charge committed to him was 
still safe, that he should surprise her as he did 
last Sunday, sampling his best cigarettes over the 
fire in the smoking-room, to which he had be- 
taken himself earlier than her calculations had led 
her to expect, and where the austerity of his own 
manner had routed her, not in repentance for her 



theft, which at this moment she was probably- 
repeating, but in confusion at its discovery. 

His wife had no toleration for female smokers. 
How, then, did he reconcile it to his conscience 
that, before leaving that wife's house this afternoon, 
he had placed the box of cigarettes, of the brand 
of Miss Ransome's predilection, where she could 
not possibly miss it ? Yes, undoubtedly he would 
find his little lazy, lying inmate, with her depraved 
instincts and her seraphic eyes, stretched discon- 
solately on an armchair, scheming some false new 
wheedlings by which to undermine his principles 
and cajole him out of his just displeasure. 

His reason was convinced that there was no 
need for haste, and yet he hastened. The moon 
was getting the better of the vapours as she 
walked higher up the low sky ; and at even some 
distance off he could see not only the dark bodies 
of the deer moving in the open spaces between 
the dead bracken, but could distinguish the 
branched heads of the stags. 

Presently other objects made themselves out 
against the steel-washed dusk. Neither were they 
unfamiliar, since a right-of-way, which for a cen- 
tury had vexed the souls of the owners of 
Stillington, intersected at about halfway between 
the Dower House and the Manor the path he was 
pursuing. The objects in question were the 
figures of a man and woman standing in the 
middle of the public footway, which held a trans- 
verse course across the park, and just outside the 
shade of a copse. 

There was no reason why the couple should 


not be any pair of village lovers — of his own 
servants taking loitering farewell at the crossing 
of the ways. Yet Edward quickened his pace. 
The added proximity of fifty yards told him that 
the man's figure was elderly and bulky, and that 
he was holding the wrists of his slender com- 
panion against her will. Both were talking with 
such vehemence and concentration of gesture as 
to be absolutely unconscious of anything outside 

A horrible suspicion, with the strength of 
almost a certainty, first stopped the observer's 
feet stock stiU, then fevered them into a run. 
At the same moment a little voyaging cloud, 
thick enough momentarily to hide her, wholly 
covered the moon, and when it had swept past 
the man had disappeared, and the girl was running 
away in the direction of the Manor, with all the 
fleetness of which a very light body and longish 
legs were capable. 

In two minutes her pursuer had overtaken 
her. She stopped, panting, and said gaspingly — 

" Oh, it is you ! I am thankful to see you ! 
I — I — have — had — such a fright ! " 

For once he could not doubt that she was 
speaking truth. Her eyes were full of terror, and 
her breath came in little dry sobs. 

" Yes ? " 

" I — I had taken Jock out for a run — you — 
you know how he teases one. By-the-by, where 
is he ? He must have run after a rabbit." 

Alas ! she was off the lines again. Her hearer 
knew perfectly that the innocent Jock had not 


shared her mysterious evening promenade. His 
heart turned to stone against her, or at all events 
he thought so, and she had to continue her lame 
narrative unhelped by any expression of interest 
or belief in it. 

" I had just reached that cross-path, when a 
man — you saw that a man was talking to me — 
jumped out of the trees. 1 had never seen him 
before, and — and — began to — to beg of me." 

She paused, her invention for the moment 
spent, apparently. It would be humane to give 
some sign of a pretence of credulity, but none 

" I suppose," she resumed with regathered 
pluck, though still trembling all over from the 
evidently very bad fright she had had, " that 
when he saw I had nothing to give — I told him 
I had no purse with me — he got angry, and " 

A voice at last broke in — an icy voice. Why 
should he allow her to sink deeper into her abyss 
of lies ? 

"Beggars do not usually wear fur coats and 
motoring caps." 

He saw a new and different fear born in 
her eyes ; but in a second she was trying to 
conceal it. 

" Was he — dressed like that ? I was too 
frightened to notice ! Was he — anybody that — 
that — ^you knew ? that — that you recognized ,?" 

The temptation to lead her into confession, 
by affecting to know more than he did, was 
strong ; but he resisted. 

"No!" he answered, and instantly saw a 


light of relief spring into her eyes. " I could 
not see his face clearly enough for recognition ; 
but," he added, with stern gentleness, " 1 cannot 
believe that he was equally unknown to you ! " 

By this time she was recovering, and her 
weapons were getting into order again, the bodily 
terror that had for the moment floored her giving 
way to a moral fear. 

" I cannot think why you are always so ready 
to distrust me ! " she sighed. " What motive 
could I have for deceiving you ? " 

" I do not presume to judge of your motives," 
he replied ; " I go only upon facts." 

if she had not been very much flurried, she 
would have abstained from the question she now 

"What facts?" 

" Since you force me into incivility," he 
answered, with grave sadness, " I must remind 
you tha't ten days ago you told an elaborate 
falsehood, or rather series of falsehoods, to dis- 
guise the fact that you had spent the afternoon 
of my wife's absence in London, in motoring to 

Here was a facer. Yet it did not produce the 
eff^ect he expected, and in an instant he realized 
that she had been aware of his knowledge all 

" So that is why you have been so cruel to 
me all this weary time ? " she cried, astute in 
softness, and trying with nice strategy to turn 
a position which it was quite impossible to 


A suspicious tendency to grow lenient, recog- 
nized in time and rebutted, hardened his voice. 

" You do not deny it ? " 

"Why should I?" — her look taking a sur- 
prised unbraiding. " I meant no harm ! I only 
did it because I was afraid of giving pain to 
either of you. I knew that you did not approve 
of Lady Tennington ; and yet " — anxiously 
watching to see the good effect of the next 
utterance — " I could not bear to neglect an old 
friend who is down in the world." 

She had so deftly changed the ground of 
conflict, and confused the issues, that he could 
only repeat stupidly — 

" Down in the world ? " 

" Yes ; isn't she ? Isn't she very mal vue ? 
And I am so down in the world myself, that it 
is not for me, of all people, to be hard on her ! " 

Perhaps the whole success of Miss Ransome's 
not very artistic falsehoods lay in the poignant 
flashes of truth that she unintentionally lit up 
their darkness with, here and there. No hearer 
could doubt the reality of her desolate fellow- 
feeling for the social outcast with the golden 
wig, concerning whom Mr. Tancred had just 
been hearing something that made him feel that 
flaying alive would be too lenient a fate for her^ 

"It is no question of Lady Tennington," he 
interrupted with a cold severity, " but of the 
person who left you so suddenly as soon as he 
saw me." 

"Did not I tell you — I thought I had— 
that he was a perfect stranger to me ? that I 


had never seen him before ? He jumped out of 
the trees, as I was passing ! Oh, how frightened 
I was ! " 

A perfectly unaffected shudder told the listener 
that here again was a stratum of unalloyed truth. 

" You do believe me, don't you ? " 

" I believe that you were frightened." 

Had poor Miss Ransome remembered a certain 
fact, she would not here have lifted her clasped 
hands, nor would Edward have had the pain of 
seeing the glint of unfamiliar diamonds on one 
of them, showing her up by moonlight. 

" Thank you so much ! Of course I know 
that appearances are against me ; and if, as you 
say, that man " — another shudder — " wore a fur 
coat, I suppose he could not have been a real 
beggar. But if you believe me " 

" Pardon me ! my belief was limited to your 
being frightened ! I can't believe that the person 
to whom you were talking with so much animation 
and intimacy was a stranger to you, nor that you 
mistook him for a beggar." 

She drew her breath heavily, and to his relief 
did not repeat her asseveration. 

" Whom do you suppose that he was .? Have 
you any idea ? " 

" I am afraid that I have a very good one." 

The gravity of his answer was tinged with 
such a disgusted reluctance, that Bonnybell's heart, 
not really at all recovered from its late intensity 
of fear, stood still. Loathsome old Charlie ! 
She had always known that he would be the 
death of her! Would it be better to tell the 


truth now ? No ! the truth was always a mistake 
for people like her, who had to live by their wits. 
The truth was, like motors and tiaras, only for the 
well-off ! But she must express some curiosity ; 
put the question to which she already knew the 
answer so fatally well. 


" I hardly like to insult you by saying so ; 
but I believe the man to whom you were talking 
to have been Colonel Landon." 

Her answer came without apparent delay ; 
yet three alternatives had raced through her head 
before she adopted it. " Shall I deny it flat ? It 
is impossible that by this light he could have 
recognized him ; he owned that he did not : it 
is just a trap to catch me 1 Shall I pretend never 
to have heard of Charlie ? By this time Edward 
knows that I am not very innocent, so that will 
never do .-' Shall I just give a great start of 
indignation, and begin to walk home very fast ? " 

The last project was adopted, and at once put 
into execution. So well done was it, that it was 
a self-reproachful Edward, fearful of having done 
a grave wrong, who came up alongside of the 
fleeing victim to appearances. 

"If I was mistaken, I can never ask your 
pardon enough. I was mistaken ? " 

The interrogation was so urgent, yet so apolo- 
getic, that somehow the bang- out lie that she had 
ready died on the fugitive's lips. Perhaps the 
evasion to which she resorted was not much 
more really truthful. 

" I do not know what I have done" — by this 


time art had advised, and nature Had readily 
supplied tears — "that you should accuse me of 
being friends with such a man " — " as Charlie " 
was on the edge of her lips ; but the misleading 
diminutive was arrested just in time. " Of course, 
I do not know what he has done, but I know that 
everybody, except Flora, cuts him. How could 
you imagine that I could like such a detestable 
old beast, or want to meet him ? " 

In the application of the strong noun applied 
to Flora's protegi there was such intense hearti- 
ness that Edward's relief deepened. 

" If I have been mistaken, how can I ever beg 
your pardon enough ? " he said with a horrified 
accent of remorse, she posting along beside him, 
sobbing in the moonlight. "I must have been 
the victim of a preconceived idea and a fancied 
likeness. But I have just been hearing that that 
person had been staying for the last fortnight or 
more at Tennington ; and I unhappily could not 
forget that you had been reduced to — to invention 
to hide the fact of your visit there." 

The links in the chain of evidence were closely 
knit. Yet there was hope as well as apology in his 
tone — hope of a denial as emphatic as her expres- 
sion of distaste had been. 

But Miss Ransome had already begun to 
repent of an outspokenness so foreign to her 
usual methods. " If Charlie ever heard that I 
called him a detestable old beast, it would be 
aU up with me." 

They had by this time crossed the plank bridge 
that parted park from pleasure-grounds. The 


sluggish river, by which her bored feet had so 
often stepped, gleamed beside the path ennobled 
by moonlight ; and Bonnybell began to feel safer. 
In this extremely tight place she must invoke 
the subtlest diplomacy to her aid. The high line 
of injured innocence which a few minutes ago 
had seemed out of the question, now, thanks to 
Edward's changed and humbled attitude, appeared 
more practicable than any other, and without delay 
she adopted it. 

" It is the want of trust," she sighed, her 
head bowed on her chest, and one brilliant tear 
deftly shaken off on to her muiF — " the absolute 
want of trust, that is what does the mischief." 

" Have you given me much cause to trust 
you ? " he asked sadly. 

To this question she found it not convenient 
to respond directly, but she resumed her melan- 
choly rhetoric. 

" It is the readiness to believe evil of one, to 
put the worst construction upon one's words and 
actions, that takes the heart out of one's efforts to 
do right." 

There was silence for a minute, while they 
still speeded homewards under the quiet trees 
that detached loose leaves to drop on their heads, 
and while a painful conflict raged in Edward's 
mind. Was she speaking truth ? It was just 
possible ; as long as the music of her breaking 
voice was falling on his ear it was even probable. 

" If I have wronged you by my accusation," 
he said in a voice as unlike his usual air as her 
own, " 1 do not know any penance that I can do 


heavy enough to wipe out the insult. If I have 
wronged you, can you ever forgive me ? " 

" As I hope to be forgiven ! " she answered, 
lifting a little saintly wet face to heaven. It 
was a tag strayed out of some tale or rhyme 
which came blessedly to her aid at the moment 
she most needed it. 

It was not till some time after he had left 
her, and the emotion caused by her angelic unre- 
sentingness had somewhat subsided, that Mr. 
Tancred remembered that his young guest had 
given him no explanation which could by any 
means be made to hold water of the equivocal 
situation in which he had found her. 


It was impossible that such an experience, or group 
of experiences, should not leave traces on the com- 
plexion ; yet it had to be left to its fate, Camilla's 
eye for paint being as the nose of the truffle dog 
for truffles. Nor, if the cause of her pallor 
were inquired into, would Miss Ransome have 
the harbour of invention to steer her dismasted 
vessel into. Invention, however harmless, had in 
her present circumstances, standing at the bar of 
Edward's judgment, to be shunned like the plague. 
But Camilla's questions were fortunately diverted 
to her husband rather than her guest. 

" You went to the Dower House ? " 

" Yes." 

" I am glad." 

A pause long enough for Bonnybell to say to 
herself that Edward had begun by jibbing at the 
attention to her foes alluded to. 

" Did you see them all ? " 

" All but Toby ; he was out." 

" Were they well ? " 

" Catherine had a bad cold." 

" The result of a pneumonia blouse, I suppose ! 
As long as girls strip themselves naked in January 

2C9 P 


they cannot be surprised at their chests and 
lungs resenting it," 

" Certainly not." 

" The following such a fashion is the solitary 
lapse from common sense I have ever detected 
in Catherine." 

The amende was honourable, and in consonance, 
as Edward felt, with Camilla's principles, and the 
line she had adopted with regard to the woman 
whom she contemplated as her probable successor. 

" Did they tell you any news ? " 

The question was unlike Camilla, habitually 
severe upon gossip and incurious of her neigh- 
bours' affairs. It was evidently born of that 
Sunday serenity of mind which made her wish 
to keep up the cheerful trickle of family talk 
which her own grim paucity of words and severity 
of aspect quenched. 

Edward hesitated for a moment, and Bonnybell 
gasped. Too well was she acquainted with the 
piece of news communicated to Mr. Tancred by 
his friend with the cold in her head, or more pro- 
bably by that mother whom she had before utilized 
as a cat's-paw. 

" News ? Did they ? Oh yes, by-the-by, 
they told me that Lady Tennington is leaving 
Tennington at once. She has had such heavy 
losses at bridge lately that she wants to let it on a 
long lease." 

" I wish her sincerely success." 

That dry comment closed the subject, and 
dinner passed without any nearer approach to 


But it was a wakeful Miss Ransome who sur- 
veyed that night, from a bed where sleep was for 
a long time not even sought, the dangers of the 
past and the perplexities of the future. Thank- 
fulness, deep and pure, at the tidings conveyed at 
dinner by Edward took the first place. If Flora 
left the country, her abhorred guest would have 
no excuse remaining for frequenting it, since no 
other house in the neighbourhood was open to 
him ; and not even for the pleasure of persecuting 
herself would Charlie face the discomforts of a 
country inn. What a dirty trick, and how like 
him, to have her shadowed I to waylay her as soon 
as he saw her alone and unprotected ! to try to 
frighten her into unjustifiable promises of giving 
up what he knew would be the making of her, by 
threats and reminders ! If she had been com- 
pelled to promise, if Edward had not appeared in 
the nick of time, much she would have kept to 
it ! She laughed among her pillows. One ad- 
vantage of her enemy's disreputabllity was that, 
whatever he said no one would believe him ! But 
if she had not been a fool she would have con- 
sented to the other man's urgent entreaties to be 
allowed to escort her as far as the bridge, to see 
her safely inside the pleasure-grounds. In the 
dread of incurring one risk she had run head 
foremost into another and far more serious one. 
Though now safe as in the heart of a cloister, a 
shiver of disgusted fear at the remembrance of 
that hated rencounter ran over her. 

Well, " All's well that ends well." Of course, 
it — the other thing — must come out now. She 


would have preferred that the announcement, with 
its attendant clamour — she gave an anticipatory 
chuckle of enjoyment at the thought of the Dower 
House faces, as she had last seen them, sitting in 
awful judgment upon her — should have followed, 
instead of preceding, Charlie's departure from the 
neighbourhood. But, of course, it must come out 
now. Edward had behaved well on the whole, 
but he had not pretended to believe her cock-and- 
bull story. 

" If I had had time, I could have made up a 
better one. Time is everything," she reflected 
regretfully. " Charlie said one true thing. I 
shall be bored to death 1 Bored will not be the 
word for it ! And how I hate being kissed ! If I 
could only persuade him that I am so excessively 
modest that I cannot bear it just yet ! The dia- 
monds ! I wonder, are they really fine, or only 
the usual sort of thing ? The stones in the ring 
were good, but they are frightfully set." Here 
she fell asleep. 

It was on her return next day from a perfectly 
legitimate and safe constitutional within the limits 
of the garden that Miss Ransome was met by the 
announcement that Mr. Tancred would be glad to 
speak to her in the library. With no preliminary 
preening of her feathers, she followed the servant's 
lead. Her heart rather dumped down, not from 
fear of the unknown, since she knew pretty well 
what was coming, but from a failure of exhilara- 
tion at the prospect. 

Edward was standing, his graceful height 


seeming to be even better in keeping with the 
grave stateliness of the room, warmly red and 
brown with book-backs gently redolent of Russia 
leather, than usual, when contrasted with the 
rather fleshy and extremely agitated young man 
beside him. 

" I have taken the liberty of sending for you," 
Tancred said, addressing Bonnybell with a cold 
perfection of politeness, " because Mr. Aylmer 
tells me that you have authorized him to give me 
a piece of news about you." 

Miss Ransome's only immediate answer was 
to direct her beautiful eyes successively towards 
the faces of the two men who confronted her. 
Happily the thought behind them could not be 
read upon those pupils : " If it must be, I wish it 
could have been the other one." 

" It has rather taken me by surprise, as I did 
not know that you were acquainted." 

The tone in which the implied reproach was 
conveyed was of the gentlest, yet it bent the 
head of one of the culprits in a not wholly cal- 
culated expression of shame on her breast. It 
drove the other into blurted speech. 

"The fault was entirely mine. Our first 
meeting in the park was purely accidental, 
wasn't it } " 

"Purely," replied she, still keeping her head 
down, and wondering whether, considering the 
very minute instructions as to the direction of her 
walks, instilled into her by him at Tennington, 
her suitor could possibly be such a fool as to 
believe what he said. 


" And after that — after that "—floundering a 
little, but still stout in defence of a cause of whose 
badness even he must be aware, " she was afraid 
of my people. No wonder, after the way they had 
treated her 1 " 

At that she lifted an eye-beam of meek 
gratitude towards her advocate's face, but it ended 
its journey on the other's. 

" If you had taken my wife and me into your 
confidence we might have helped you a little." 

Behind the perfect restraint and courtesy of 
his words, BonnybeU detected the profundity of 
his contempt for her methods. Had they been 
alone she would have tried to cajole him into a 
more lenient view of her, but the presence of that 
stodgy pillar of defence — beefy was, to speak 
truth, the epithet that his love internally applied 
to him — which would henceforth for ever be in- 
terposed between her and all assailants, kept her 

Edward had by this time turned away from 
her — she looked upon the action as typical — and 
was directing a grave question to the scarlet Toby. 

" You have not yet told your people ? " 

" Why should I .'' I am absolutely indepen- 
dent of my father. I owe none of them anything 
after the way in which they behaved to her" 

The red god of war spoke through his sullen 
voice, and Miss Ransome saw and grasped her 

" Whatever else happens to me, do not let me 
be a cause of quarrel between you and yours," 
she said angelically. " If I thought I was going 


to be a firebrand I would run away and hide 
myself somewhere where no one would find me." 

Then she pulled herself up. " I must not 
be melodramatic, he would see through it in a 
moment." The he did not refer to her future 
husband. Her inspiration took a wiser form. 
Going up to her fianci, and laying her hand on 
his shoulder, she said with a calculated impulsive- 
ness that had yet the curious one grain of truth 
in it which her lies, spoken and acted, so often 

"Ask them just to tolerate me. I do not 
expect them to like me. Poor things, it would be 
too much to hope " — the corners of her mouth 
twitching with irresistible, if rather nervous, and 
happily not evident mirth at the picture that 
rose before her quick brain, of the imminent 
announcement and its effect — " but if they would 
give me just a chance ! Every one has a right to 
ask to be given a chance." 

Of the two pairs of eyes towards which her own 
rolled in a lovely candour of appeal, one met her 
glance with a besotted ecstasy of approbation. 
The other pair fell. Oh, if she could only get 
Toby out of the room, out of the house ! Her 
situation between the two men was fast becoming 
intolerable to her. If only Toby was out of sight 
and hearing, she could manage Edward so far 
better. And the contrast between their appear- 
ances was getting on her nerves. 

" Go," she said with a charming air of self- 
denying insistence, "go at once. I can't bear 
you to delay a moment. Whatever they may 


have done to me — and indeed, indeed you exag- 
gerate — your first duty must always be to them." 

Metaphorically she pushed him out, entirely 
ignoring his distressed signals to her to accom- 
pany him to the hall door, on the very ofF-chance 
of snatching a moment of that privacy which was 
the last thing she desired. Her manoeuvre did 
not at first seem to have achieved a particularly 
pleasant result. 

"It was not Mr. Aylmer, I think, to whom 
you were talking in the park last night ? " 

" Have you been asking him ? " 

A certain scorn in his eyes at once set her 
mind at rest on the point, and made her sharply 
repent of the tell-tale rush of her question. 

" If it was not Mr. Aylmer " 

" Why do you call him Mr. Aylmer ? I 
thought to you he was always Toby." 

" If it was not he, who was it ? " 

" I thought I explained to you that I did not 
know. I took him for a tramp, but you said that 
he couldn't be one, because he wore something — 
what was it ? — that tramps do not wear. I sup- 
pose I was too frightened to notice. Anyhow, 
he" was not anybody whom I had ever seen 
before." She was lying with inartistic redundancy, 
and, she also felt, in vain. 

"You must have lived with very credulous 
people," he said slowly, the contempt in his tone 
veiled a little by courtesy, and tempered with 
pity, and so turned towards the door. She fled 
to intercept him. 

" Are you going to tell Mrs. Tancred ? " 


"No, I think it will be better that you should 
give her your own version." 

She threw all that she knew of entreaty into 
her voice. 

" Will you let me give it to you first ? " 

He hesitated. What a walking lie she was ! 
The black gown that she wore proclaimed an 
entirely non-existent grief. But, on the other 
hand, what a very, very juvenile offender she 
looked I Would it be indulging a culpable 
curiosity, would it be leading her into fresh false- 
hoods, to hear by what ingenuity she could gloss 
over and whiten her abominable behaviour ? 
She saw the momentary weakness of doubt, and 

" You know that our first meeting was purely 
accidental .-' " 

"Toby told me so." The return to the 
familiar nickname was balm to her. 

" I had just lost Jock, and he helped me to 
find him. It was all en regie. He had been pre- 
sented to me that day — at Tennington." 

Edward did not in the least believe in the 
accidental meeting, though he did believe that the 
direct and truthful Toby had been the dupe of 
its fortuitous character, but all he said was — 

" And then ? " 

" Then — we met again — perhaps not quite so 
accidentally. I would not let him come here, as 
he wanted me. I knew that Mrs. Tancred would 
think it her duty — as, of course, it would have 
been — to warn Mrs. Aylmer, and the whole 
thing would have been blued/" 


There was a silence. He saw it all. For once 
she was speaking truth. The poor little waif, 
seeing the goal of toilettes, diamonds, automobiles 
ahead of her, and making for it, fighting with all 
her thief s weapons of deceit and evasion to reach 
it before it was removed beyond her grasp. Her 
next sentence looked as if she had read a part of 
his thoughts. 

" If I had been in any other position, the last 
thing I should have wished would be to marry. 
I think it a very repulsive institution." 

She said it with quiet conviction, and without 
the slightest suspicion of anything shocking, con- 
sidering her present position, in the utterance. 
But it so completely tied her hearer's tongue that 
she had to go on unhelped even by one of those 
half-doubtful yeses with which Edward had a 
trick of punctuating their talk. 

" It was a far better provision than I had any 
right to expect, and it would free both of you 
from an incubus." 

The worldly wisdom of the first half of her 
sentence might have kept him still tongue-tied, 
but the uncertain voice and twitching lower lip 
that set off the last half drove him, as she knew 
it would, into speech. (" I must bring home to him 
what an orphan I am, _but I must not cry yet.") 
She winked away a real tear. 

"Is it possible," he said, holding back with 
difficulty, as she triumphantly and yet tremblingly 
saw, the expression of an emotion far deeper than 
she had any suspicion of having been able to evoke 
— "is it possible that you have run your head 


into the noose because you have fancied yourself 
an unwelcome visitor here ? How have we shown 
it ? By what shameful lapse from courtesy and 
hospitality in us have you gathered such an idea ? " 

She put up her hands over her ears, hands 
whose affecting black Suedeness gave no hint of 
Toby's diamonds. 

" I will not let you say such things ! " she said 
with something nearing a little cry ; " you who 
have been so astonishingly good to me. Even 
when you made me feel a little out in the cold of 
late, I know it was because you thought I deserved 
it ; you did it for my good ; but " — dropping her 
large white eyelids and making them quiver a 
little — " though I am not very clever, I could not 
suppose that you kept me here because I was 
a pleasure to you." 

Her words, though soft as a baby-zephyr in 
their gentle implication that his coldness, his 
Pharisaic want of charity in interpreting her, his 
inability to see things from her poor little point 
of view, had driven her to her present precipice 
seemed to hit him a blow full in the chest. 

" If what you have done is owing to an 
extraordinary misapprehension," he said in a 
penetrating low voice, "it is not yet too late 

But she did not let him finish his sentence, 
breaking in in real panic. " Good heavens ! how 
I have overdone it ! He is quite capable of sack- 
ing my Toby under the impression that he is 
delivering me." 

"Oh, you mistake me," she cried with a 


bewitching gesture of irritation at herself for 
having so ill conveyed her meaning. " Though I 
dislike the idea of marriage — I have seen such 
unhappy marriages — yet I am quite incapable of 
accepting him from mercenary motives ; he is far 
too fine a character." 

Then Miss Ransome pulled up rather abruptly, 
conscious of having struck a false note. (" I am on 
the wrong tack again. Toby has no more a fine 
character than I have.") She took up her parable 
in another key. 

" He will be very kind to me, and he can make 
excellent settlements. His father's property must 
come to him, as it is entailed, and he can make 
ducks-and-drakes of the estate he inherited from 
his cousin. He told me yesterday that it could 
all be settled on me and the younger children." 

Was she quite on the right tack, even now ? 
Did she hear a low gasp from Edward at the 
revelation of the delicate choice of topics discussed 
between Miss Ransome and her lover ? Probably 
not, or she would not have added the rider which 
presendy followed, uttered with nonchalant matter- 

" That is to say, if there are any younger 
children ! " 


After all, Edward was better than his word, doing 
what he had at first wisely declined to do, "break- 
ing" the news to Camilla, and receiving on his 
own devoted head the first rush, the deadliest 
Levin bolts of the thunderstorm of her wrath. 
The skirt of the deluge was quite enough for 
poor Miss Ransome. The interview opened with 
an amenity which gave the keynote. 

"Had a scullery-maid in my service," Mrs. 
Tancred said, framing each word with such slow 
care, as if she feared even one of her pearls of 
speech should be lost — "had a scullery-maid in 
my service conducted her courtship in the way you 
have, I should have made my housekeeper dismiss 
her at once without a character." 

No etiquette book or guide to polite con- 
versation having provided a suitable reply to such 
an address. Miss Ransome took it in acquiescent 
silence, not attempting to put up the umbrella of 
any useless palliative against the hurricane. 

"It would be a mockery to hope that any 
blessing could attend a marriage resulting from 
an acquaintance so disgracefully made and scanda- 
lously cultivated. It is a gratifying reflection 


for me that it is I who have brought such a 
calamity upon my friends ! I pity them ; I pity 
him, poor deluded fool, from the bottom of my 

It was in vain for the young creature so agree- 
ably apostrophized to hug her favourite maxim 
that " hard words break no bones." It began at 
this point to escape from her rather convulsive 
embrace. Two salt drops hung unshed on the 
lengthy eyelashes — one of her most uncommon 
beauties — of her lower lids. 

" Do not you pity me a little too ? " she said 
with half a sob. 

« You ! " 

The lightning must have struck her that time. 
She felt as if she were black all down one side. 
The tears dried up on her lids. 

" I had only just begun to lessen your and 
Mr. Tancred's dislike for me," she said, not as 
if in complaint, but with humble acquiescence in 
an accepted fact ; " and now I have to face a 
whole hostile family, all of whom dislike and 
disapprove me more than even you can do ! " 

Nothing could be less civil than the "That 
would be difficult ! " here interjected ; but Miss 
Ransome had a closer acquaintance with her 
judge's character than when once before she 
had stood a criminal at that judge's awful bar, 
and an instinct telling her that the rudeness 
of the ejaculation possibly had its rise in the 
suspicion of a temptation to leniency under 
her own disarming oratory, encouraged her to 


"Don't you think I am to be pitied for 
knowing that, if I were to search high and low, 
I could never in the whole length and breadth of 
the land find a family who would be ready to 
welcome me into it ? " 

" They would certainly be very oddly con- 
stituted if they were." 

The comment was even more stinging than 
its predecessor ; yet Bonnybell's fine ear detected 
a little uncertainty in its brutality. 

" Yes," she answered, with a little ring of 
miserable humiliation in her tone, " you are 
right. Wherever I go, I must force myself; 
nobody in their senses would hold open their 
arms to me." 

That night Miss Ransome begged to be 
excused from appearing at dinner, not unwilling 
that it should be known that her eyes were too 
extinguished with crying for her to be decently 
visible ; and, as she reflected, " When you are in 
disgrace a consommi and the wing of a pheasant 
are better enjoyed beside your dressing-room 
fire than under the eyes of your exasperated 

The husband and wife faced each other in the 
gravity of their original tete-h-tHe. Only such a 
thin rivulet of remarks irrigated the drought 
of their silence as saved them from provoking 
among their servants the comment that they 
must have had a "row." Facing the Spartan 
abstinence of his companion, Edward was com- 
pelled to eat almost entirely alone, and even he 


had to force an appetite. When the men had 
finally retired — 

"I suppose that you were" — he paused to 
reject one adjective and pick another — "rather 
severe to her ? " 

" I told her the truth." 

« Yes ? " 

"Do you wish to hear the exact words I 

" If you do not mind." 

" I told her that if a scullery-maid in my 
employment had behaved as she had done, I 
should have had her discharged on the spot 
without a character." 
' _L n3.nics 

"Thanks? What for ? " 

" For gratifying my idle curiosity." 

To himself he said, " How inconceivably 
barbarous women are to one another ! " and 
the thought was coupled with an ignoble wonder, 
which had often assailed him in the earlier days 
of their wedded life, as to whether there was any 
end at all to Camilla's forehead, or whether it 
had really gone to look for the back of her head ? 
But his voice was well under control before he 
asked — 

" And she ? How did she take it ? " 

" How did she take it ? " repeated his wife, with 
a sombre wrath in her tone that testified to the 
intensity of the annoyance that the transaction 
discussed had caused her. " How does she always 
take slaps in the face ? With turned-up eyes and 
turned-down mouth, and a Sainte Nitouche air that 


would almost convince one in the teeth of one's 
senses that she was the innocent lamb and one's self 
the butcher." 

"Did she give any explanation — make any- 
palliating statement ? " 

The question was inspired, not by the idle 
curiosity of which Edward had accused himself, 
but by the forlorn hope that, since she was 
presumably making a clean breast of it. Miss 
Ransome might have added to her confession an 
explanation of the still uncleared-up mystery of 
her meeting in the park with that other person, 
whose moonlit outline had worn such an ominous 
resemblance to Colonel Landon's. 

" Explanation ! Not she ; she was far too 
shrewd. No, her line was an appeal to the 
feelings. She addressed herself to the wrong 
quarter for that ! " — with a short laugh of scorn. 

Edward's was naturally a questioning spirit, 
and he was still asking himself whether, after all. 
Miss Ransome's guns had been so ill laid and 
pointed when Camilla spoke again. 

" It is criminal to rejoice in one's friends' 
calamities, more especially when one has brought 
those calamities upon them ; but, at least, we are 
the gainers." 

" Yes." 

"We have learnt the mortifying lesson that 
no influences we can bring to bear have any power 
against hereditary depravity." 

At that something in him rose and cavilled. 

" Depravity ! That is scarcely the right word I 
There is no depravity in an engagement to 


marry between two free people, however brought 

Engagements to marry had always been sub- 
jects for wincing to Camilla ever since her own, 
and the phrase " however brought about," though 
uttered without the slightest arrihre-pensky was 
perhaps not happily chosen. She feU silent, and 
later in the evening, after a prolonged pause, 
evidently given to painful reflection, said — 

" I thought I had never seen a path more 
plainly indicated to me as the right one, never 
taken a step more unmistakably under guidance ; 
but I now see that I was misled hy that exaggerated 
value for physical attractions which has led me 
into all the gravest errors of my life." 

Edward was no coxcomb ; yet it was impossible 
to mistake what the gravest of the grave errors of 
her life had, in his wife's opinion, been. 

Next morning Mrs. Tancred came down to 
breakfast in her bonnet. 

" You are coming to London with me ? " asked 
her husband, looking up from his coffee. 

" No." 

The negative was naked, and did not seem to 
invite further questioning ; but Mrs. Tancred 
presently volunteered the unasked information. 

" I am going to the Dower House." 

Neither of her auditors hazarded a comment, 
but the sinking heart of one of them inquired of 
itself, " Does she mean to take me with her ? " 
There was a pause as of Nature between two 


" I am going to ask pardon of my friends." 
Edward was apparendy run out of his stock of 
"yeses," and the white face of the object of 
Camilla's apologies dropped towards its heaving 
chest. The whiteness was partly artificial, due to 
an annoyed comment by the artist on her own 
carmines at an earlier period of the morning. 
(" I am incorrigibly rosy ! One ought never to 
be pink at a crisis ! I can do it so that even 
without her spectacles she will not be able to 
detect it ! ") " And, moreover, I wish to find out 
what their attitude will be towards " 

She paused before the name of Bonnybell, as 
before an unclean word with which she was un- 
willing to sully her lips. The unclean word lifted 
up its little pitiful voice. 

"Will you ask them just to give me a 
chance ? " 

Instinct dictated to her the phrase in its un- 
defended humility ; and though the ungracious 
"It is no part of my mission to be your 
messenger ! " could hardly be said to be en- 
couraging, Miss Ransome felt that she had struck 
the right note. She was alone with Edward for 
one moment in the hall before his diurnal 

" How I wish you were back ! " she cried in 
such a subdued plaint, as seemed forced out of 
her maiden reticence in spite of her. 

" Do you ? " He could only hope that the 
surprise he tried to throw into his words was 
more perceptible to her ear than the emotion that 
entered into them without any throwing. 


" Yes, I do. I suppose that, in my dire need, 
I catch at straws." 

The phrase went with him through the day. 

Mrs. Tancred's absence was prolonged enough 
to give its cause ample time to consider her 
situation in every light and from every angle. 
The season of suspense was passed, like all ordi- 
nary mornings, in the schoolroom, but Miss Ran- 
some gave herself a whole holiday in honour of 
her betrothal, and also because, as she sensibly 
reflected, an equipment of elegant learning would 
be wasted upon the mate of Toby. 

" If they refuse to entertain the idea at all — 
and I am a. pill for them " — she laughed maliciously 
— " and Camilla insists on my giving him up to 
oblige them, I suppose we shall have to be tied 
up at once in some hugger-mugger way at a 
Registry Office. Pah ! how can any one marry 
who has any other means of subsistence ? I may 
give up living by my wits, but I shall have Toby 
pour tout potage for all eternity ! " 

The thought was so unexhilarating that it 
stemmed the current of her ruminations for a 
time, while she dwelt upon it, her eyes resting 
on the trees which masked her windows, but 
through which, owing to the fall of their leaves, 
little loopholes into the beyond had become 

" It is ridiculous — deadly dull as it has been 
— but I believe I shall be sorry to go. One 
cannot enjoy the old camel's pummellings, but I 
do not dislike her as much as I ought, and 


Edward, dear, courteous, hesitating, incredible 
Edward, who has never once tried to kiss me ! 
Oh that I could say the same of Toby ! " 

The last and most grotesquely fervent of Miss 
Ransome's aspirations was drowned in the sound of 
wheels, and all her being passed into her ears as 
she listened to hear her fate. She had not long 
to wait. Camilla herself — no messenger footman 
— opened the schoolroom door, and shut it care- 
fully behind her. 

" They will have nothing to say to me ? " 
The just-enough-panted inquiry was accompanied 
with a little rush forward. 

" They have no choice," replied Camilla, 
dryly ; " Toby is his own master." 

" I know that he is independent of his father 
in money matters," rejoined Bonnybell, with an 
excursion into the realities of truth as injudicious 
as unusual, " but " 

"You would not have risked your patent- 
leather shoes in the park in pursuit of him if he 
had not been." 

The girl drew up her head with a meek air of 
hurt self-respect. 

" I was going to say that it was not the money 
question that I cared about. What I want to 
know is whether they can bring themselves — 
by-and-by — in time — to look upon me as a 
daughter and sister." 

" They will try." The tone in which Mrs. 
Tancred uttered the sentence plainly showed 
what, in her opinion, the upshot of the effort 
would be. 


" That is all I can ask of them." 

" And to show that they are in earnest and 
are willing to give you the chance you asked for, 
they have generously invited you to stay at the 
Dower House ; I am to send you over this 

Perhaps it was excess of joy at this news of 
her acceptance into the bosom of the Aylmer 
family that caused half a minute to elapse before 
Bonnybell was able to ejaculate, with quite the 
proper emphasis — 

" "What have I done to deserve such 
goodness ? " 

And after the matter-of-fact frankness of 
Camilla's answer, " Nothing," there was another 

" Was — the news a great shock to them ? " 


" Will they " — there was nothing spurious 
this time about the quailing accent — "be very 
severe to me ? " 

" You must remember that it takes time for 
decent people to become acclimatized to your 
methods, but they wiU do their best." 

Miss Ransome's heart — though, in its wrong, 
shifty way, not uncourageous — gave a dull thud of 
dismay. To accept with disarming humility the 
admission thus cordially offered, and go with 
smiling readiness to meet the buffets in store 
for her, was plainly the only wise course to 
pursue, and no one was better aware of it than 
herself. Yet at the awful ordeal ahead of her the 
flesh jibbed. 


" Is not this afternoon rather soon ? " she 
asked diffidently. 

" What is there to wait for ? " 

The trenchant question could have but the 
same answer as Bonnybell's own inquiry as to 
what she had done to deserve such goodness had 
elicited from Mrs. Tancred. After a moment 
the latter resumed — 

" I cannot pretend to you that your visit will 
be a pleasant one, but, as I said, they will do their 

At the terrific view thus conjured up of 
Catherine and Miss Barnacre's best, Bonnybell's 
artifices fell away from her, and in a spasm of most 
real consternation she dropped down on her knees 
beside Camilla, in the attitude most reprobated by 
that lady, and cried out — 

" Oh, I do not think I can bear it ! They 
will put their fingers on all my weak spots, and I 
have so Inany — many ! " 

Mrs. Tancred's answer was to twitch the gown 
clutched by the bride-elect's convulsive fingers 
out of them, and say — 

" They cannot well be more uncomplimentary 
to you than I am." 

"That is true," replied the other, sobbing ; 
" but when you are down upon me I know that it 
is for my good. Unworthy and wretched as I am, 
I have always known that you did not really hate 
me, since that night when you came up to my 
bedroom and kissed me when you thought I was 

Bonnybell's wet eyes were cast down, but she 


heard her benefactress give a start at this masterly 

" It was of a piece with the rest of your con- 
duct to pretend that you were asleep," she said 

But the poor innocent knew that her shot had 


A STEADY fine rain had set in, which had lasted 
with scarcely any daylight intermission, though, as 
often in wet weather, the nights were fine, since 
Bonnybell's absorption into the bosom of her 
future family. Three days had passed since that 
event, and from inside the walls of her prison- 
house had come no sign of how things were going 
with her there. Sometimes Edward felt Darius' s 
wish to go to the edge of the lion's den and cry 
out " In a lamentable voice " to a little modern 
Daniel to know how she was faring there. The 
only difference was that he did not indulge it. 

Mr. Tancred had returned to find his guest 
already gone, and told himself at once that he was 
relieved. That there might be no mistake about 
it, he repeated the statement several times. 

" She is absolutely indifferent to the young 
man," Camilla said, using the generic term for 
humanity instead of the colloquial, on the same 
principle as she always spoke of Jock as " the 
dog " when he was in disgrace. " She went off in 
a flood of tears." 

" With such an ordeal before me, I think 
I should have done the same," he answered. 



"I reminded her that she would have the 
support of her accomplice ; but that did not seem 
to give her much confidence." 

For not the first time in his life Edward 
wished that his wife would give him a holiday 
from the dry irony whose use had become a 
second nature to her, but he did not, it is 
needless to say, tell her so, and Mrs. Tancred 
continued in the same strain — 

" She repeated what a noble character he was ; 
but said that in this case it was some woman-friend 
whom she needed to cling to. I was unable to 
advise her to cling to " — " Catherine Aylmer " 
was on her tongue, but she substituted — " the 
ladies of the Aylmer family in their present 
frame of mind." 

Edward suggested weakly, " Meg, perhaps ? " 

" Meg was sent away this morning." 

"And Miss Barnacre ? " 

"No, they have kept her. They think that 
she will be invaluable to them." 

He gave a slight shudder, and glanced at the 
clock. It pointed to 10.30. For five mortal 
hours the lions had been crunching the tender 
bones of the little new Daniel. 

" It seems," continued his wife, " that she has 
always liked women better than men." An arid 
little laugh showed how much credit Camilla 
attached to the statement. " I wonder, while she 
was about it, that she did not add that her mother 
had done the same." After a pause, " She must 
indeed have been in sore need of some one to 
cling to, for she tried to cling to me !'" 


There was an angry ring in the voice that 
uttered the last clause, which showed Mr. Tancred 
that his wife had not been so untouched by poor 
Miss Bonnybell's frantic gymnastics as she wished 
it to be believed ; and for the first time he felt less 
intolerably grated upon by her tone. 

"Are you determined to make her always 
carry that unfortunate mother upon her back ? " 
he asked, rather wearily. " The poor creature will 
have enough to do through life to get away from 
her without your help." 

The rejoinder tarried, but when it came there 
was a tinge of compunction in it. 

" You are quite right. I do not think that 
the Aylmers will let her forget her parentage in a 

Both fell silent. 

Three days had passed ; and during them the 
married pair seemed to themselves to be always 
falling silent. A tacit convention prevented their 
perpetual discussion of one subject ; yet none 
other seemed to present itself, and the eschewed 
theme kept cropping up continually, like gout 
weed in a garden. The house seemed to 
both extraordinarily silent. Their late guest had 
never been noisy, and it would have seemed im- 
possible that the removal of so small and sound- 
less a presence could have made any difference 
in a great house's contribution to the noise of 
the world. Yet the absence of so — as one would 
have thought — imperceptible a footfall on the 
deep-carpeted stairs ; the extinction of such tiny 


trills of song and wafts of laughter made the 
rooms seem void, as if uninhabited, and hushed 
as if one lay dead in them. It was strange that 
this deliverance from a little adventuress, of 
whose existence they had six months earlier been 
ignorant, should have made the woman feel the 
bitter curse of her barrenness, and the man the 
contemptible vacuity of his self-murdered life more 
acutely than ever before. 

It was under a variety of aspects that the 
subject reared its shunned head. Camilla was 
always the one to introduce and then curtly 
dismiss it. 

" I imagine," she said one evening, after 
having been observing for some moments the 
idle flutter and dip of the leaves of the book 
her husband was ostensibly reading, "that you 
are feeling as if all the little colour that was in 
them had been withdrawn from our somewhat 
grey lives ; is it not so ? " 

There was no anger nor even surprise, only 
a sort of compassion in her tone, as of one gaug- 
ing anew the drabness of an existence in which 
such an illumination could be felt as a loss. 

Edward regained a firmer grip of his paper- 

"Are you judging me by yourself.?" he 
asked, with a smile not more melancholy than, 
and as calmly kind as usual. "Are you sure 
that it is not you who are missing our patch of 
scarlet ? " 

" I should miss a blister when it was taken 
oiF," she answered, and the subject dropped. 


It rose again, however, and yet again, im- 
possible apparently quite to submerge. On the 
third evening it came up suddenly, emerging 
from silence in a fresh dress. 

" It would be difficult to find a worse way for 
disposing of money," Camilla said, her rather 
grating voice breaking on the absolute stillness 
of her surroundings — Jock never snored and 
Edward never cleared his throat — " but I suppose 
we must give her a trousseau." 

" It would be like you," he answered, carefully 
dissociating himself, as he invariably did, from any 
share in her generosities. 

She must have grown too much used to this 
habit of fifteen years to be annoyed by it ; so 
perhaps it was some warmth in his acquiescence 
that ruffled her, or simply that her stock of 
amiability had run low, but her rejoinder was 
certainly not amiable. 

" She shall have no voice in the choice 
of it." 

Ten minutes more must have elapsed before 
Jock pricked his ears, the finer dog-sense out- 
running human hearing. Camilla looked with 
wondering tenderness at him over the pins on 
which her philanthropic sweater was growing into 
fleecy life. 

" What does he think he hears ? " 

Edward shook his head, and Jock jumped 
out of his basket and made for the door, which 
opened as he reached it to admit a figure racing in 
at the top of its speed. 

Before the astounded couple realized its 


presence, the figure whose flexibility of knee- 
joint had often been a trial to its female patron 
had flung itself in an attitude of prayer between 

" I have come back to you ! Do not drive 
me away ! " 

" You have been turned out ? " 

The ejaculated inquiry was Camilla's. The 
same idea had occurred to Edward, yet his wife's 
outspoken wording of it gave him a galvanic 
shock at her brutality. 

The kneeling angel gave pause to the pants 
which were heaving her black chiffon breast, to 
gasp out, with a reproachful look from one to 
the other of her listeners — 

" Turned out ! Oh no, I turned myself 

The extreme improbability of this statement 
entirely " dumbed " that one of Miss Ransome's 
hearers who was never much addicted to speech, 
but the other cried out in a key from which 
no great pains had been taken to extract the 
incredulity — 

" You ran away ? at this time of night ? " 

" I did not run away ; I asked them to send 

me " She made a dramatic pause. " I was 

going to say homer 

It was not quite at once that Camilla could 
bring out her curt query — 

" And why, pray ? " 

By this time the slender darkness had risen 
to its feet, and was drawing itself up, not without 
a touch of unfamiliar dignity. 


" When I found that they believed some- 
thing that they had heard about me, I felt that 
I could not spend another night under the same 
roof with them." 

For a moment the vague " something " re- 
mained with no demand for an explanation of it, 
Edward's silence being due to a dreadful suspicion 
that whatever the accusation that had been brought 
against Bonnybell it was in all probability true ; 
Camilla's to a fear of hearing a fact or facts about 
her protegee even more shocking than those that 
had already wounded her ears. But as a shrink- 
ing from the disagreeable was certainly no part 
of Mrs. Tancred's character, she pulled herself 
together, and asked brusquely — 

" What was it ? and was it true ? " 

" True ! " repeated the other in a heart- 
wrung voice. " Oh, if you, too, are going to 
believe it ! " She threw her hands out before 
her with a gesture at once of finality and 

" I should have a better chance of disbelieving 
it if I knew what it was." 

"They received an anonymous letter about 
me. It came by this evening's post." 

" H'm ! " 

" It accused me " — there was worldly wisdom 
in bringing out the accusation with difficulty ; but 
the difficulty was real too — "the writer s^id he 
thought that the man whom I was going to marry 
ought to know that he had seen me one night 
last year in Paris at M 's." 

The confession seemed at first to fall flat ; at 


least, with regard to the person to whom it was 
directly addressed. 

" M 's ! " replied Camilla, with the uncon- 
scious ease with which an innocent young girl 
might pronounce an improper word. "What is 
M 's ? " 

Bonnybell's distraught orbs rolled with involun- 
tary confidence towards Edward. 

"You know, don't you ?" 

" I have heard of it." 

" I suppose it is some very disreputable haunt 
of vice," said Camilla ; " but I am thankful to 
say I never heard of it." 

" It would be absolutely out of the question 
for any femme du monde to be seen there if she 
wished to keep a rag of character ; and as to a 
jeune filk ! " 

" It was not true, then ? " 

The question was point-blank, as was the 
searching eye-beam that lit it, and Bonnybell felt 
that the answer must be to match." 

" 'True ! " she repeated, with an anguish of 
upbraiding in her voice. " Oh, I cannot have 
explained properly ! How can you ask me ? I 
know that poor Claire was not careful enough in 

the places she took me to ; but M 's ! and I 

never went anywhere without her ! " 

If Mrs. Tancred here had to struggle with 
some difficulty in suppressing her opinions of the 
chaperonage thus waved in her face, she came oiF 
conqueror ; and "poor Claire's" laurels, and even 
the objectionable pet name itself, went unim- 


" Have you any idea who wrote it ? " 

" Not the slightest ! " — with wounded emphasis. 
" How should I ? I did not know " — with inno- 
cent sorrow — "that I had an enemy in the world." 

A diversion was here efFected by the fact that 
Edward, usually so quiet and noiseless, by some 
awkward movement of his foot displaced one of 
the fire-irons, which fell rattling from its andiron 
on to the hearth, before which the master of the 
house was standing. 

Bonnybell's heart, though in a certain sense 
a stout one, sank. " He knows that it was 
Charlie ! " she said internally. " I was afraid that 
he must connect the letter with that unlucky 
episode in the park ! Well, since I have begun, I 
must go on — ' in for a penny, in for a pound ; ' and, 
after all, it is nearly all truth that I am telling." 

" It came by the afternoon post," she con- 
tinued, confining the appealing tragedy of her eyes 
to her female auditor for the present, as being the 
easier field of action. " I saw at dinner-time that 
something must have happened, they were so cold 
to me ; not " — in plaintive, though not accusatory 
parenthesis — " that they have ever been anything 
else. Miss Barnacre kept talking all the time 
about — adventuresses " — the speaker's sunk voice 
made a slight shamed pause before the last word — 
" and Catherine was like ice ! " 

A long sighing breath bore on its wings this 
last cruel reminiscence ; no other sound broke 
upon it, and It was with a heartened sense that 
the air was getting warmer that the narrator 
presently went on with her narrative. 


" Toby did all he could to prevent their show- 
ing it to me ; he at least believed in me. I am 
afraid their doing it in spite of him will make a sad 
quarrel between them" — another sigh — "but they 
thought it right I should know ; perhaps it was." 

Miss Ransome paused on the meek acquies- 
cence in injury of this note. 

" 1 suppose that they thought it their duty to 
give you an opportunity of clearing yourself," 
Camilla said, in a voice whose chronic severity 
was tempered by some unusual relaxing of its 
harshness, "but for myself I should have put 
such a thing into the fire." 

"They gave it to me in the drawing-room 
after dinner. There were only Mrs. Aylmer, and 
Catherine, and Miss Barnacre there. I thought 
they need not have had Miss Barnacre ; but you 
know how she always gives her opinion about 
everything, even about your religious views." 
Bonnybell sank her voice at this last proof of 
the Barnacre' s presumption, and was rewarded 
by hearing a muiBed snort of contempt from the 
direction of Mrs. Tancred. " I could not make 
anything of it at first, never having seen the 
handwriting before." (O Bonnybell ! why the 
inartistic superfluity of this touch ?) "I asked 
what it meant." 


" When at last I made out what I was accused 
of, and saw that they — I am not quite sure about 
Mrs. Aylmer, but ihe other two did not even 
attempt any disguise — believed it, I — I did not 
say anything at all. I just gave them — gave 


Catherine, I think it was, but I did not seem to 
see very well — gave Catherine back the letter and 
left the room." 

The foot of the figure on the hearthrug must 
have been on this particular night out of its 
owner's control. A while ago it was the fire-irons 
that innocently suffered, now it was Jock ; and, to 
his intense astonishment, nobody apologized. 

Camilla said, " Well ? " 

" I knew that I should find Toby in the 
smoking-room, so I went there, and asked him 
to send to the stables and order something to take 
me — I am afraid I said," with a humbly apologetic 
smile, " home ! " 

The wronger of Jock and of the fire-irons spoke 
at last, though his voice was not quite what he 
could have wished. 

" And he let you go ? " 

" He had no choice, poor fellow ! " replied 
the girl, with an unpretending dignity which made 
it seem to her hearer as if he saw her for the first 
time. " He was in a dreadful state. I never saw 
any one in such a dreadful state ; but I was firm. 
I said, ' If it is true, I am not fit to be here ; and if 
it is not true, I ought never to speak to them 

" And he acquiesced r 

" When I said that, oh, he was in a dreadful 
state ! " — with a, for once, not manufactured 
shudder at the recollection. " He answered that, 
for his part, he had every intention of speaking to 
them again, and he did not think that they would 
forget what he meant to say in a hurry." 


The narrative, pregnant though it was, had not 
taken long, and now it was ended. 

" If your statement is true " Camilla began 

with a judicial slowness. 

But Bonnybell, contrary to the humble polite- 
ness of her wont, broke in with a little cry. 

" True ? Would it be much use my telling an 
untruth when ' they ' are so close by to show me 
up if I did ? " 

The logic was as sound as the veracity of the 
appeal was obvious, and the little cry was, and did 
the work of, more than a rhetorical flourish. 

" If, as I am induced to think, you have stated 
the facts as they occurred," began Mrs. Tancred 
again, with no apparent resentment of the inter- 
ruption, " I confess that I do not think there 
was any course open to you but the one you 
adopted. For once in your life you seem to have 
behaved with decency and dignity." 

The concession, though not very graciously 
worded, was an enormous one, and the relief con- 
sequent upon it proportionately great, for poor 
Miss Ransome had been very, very far from sure 
of her reception. 

"Then I may stay ? " she faltered. 

" Stay ! " repeated her hostess, with an energy 
of scorn which warmed the inmost core of her 
silent husband's heart towards her. " Do not 
ask preposterous questions." 

Thereupon the returned waif flung herself 
incontinently upon the rigid neck whose stiff 
ruffles and frills no fond daughter-arms had ever 
disarranged. The action bulked colossal to the 


executor of it in retrospect. " How could I have 
done it ? " she asked herself in a cooler after-hour, 
looking back upon her feat as the man who in 
youth has mounted a cannon-swept, bayonet-brist- 
ling breach into a burning town may regard the 
feat from the armchair of placid old age. Of 
course, I had had a good deal to upset me, but I 
must have been off my head. 

The embrace, if so one-sided a transaction 
could merit the name, did not last long. Bonny- 
bell was curtly told to sit down and not make a 
fool of herself, and Camilla began almost at once 
to scold her ; but yet it was with a sense of 
extreme well-being that the little gutter-snipe, as 
in frank soliloquy she often called herself, settled 
her lithe body into a familiar armchair. Edward 
had sat down too, and Jock, making up his mind 
that reparation for his wrongs was unaccountably 
not forthcoming to-night, stepped into his basket, 
which stood raised on its accustomed tripod to 
keep him from imaginary draughts. The girl 
might never have been away. Yet to herself 
what odious aeons seemed to have rolled between 
her last and her present occupancy of the Hep- 
plethwaite chair that now held her ! 

To a casual observer all would have seemed 
as before, but a nicer eye would have detected 
that Mrs. Tancred had not resumed her labours 
on the nightly sweater. She sat looking straight 
before her with knit brows for some good while 
before she at last opened her mouth to utter slow 
and evidently well-weighed words. 

"If you have told me the truth" — oh, why 


that cruel preamble ? — " I think, as I have already 
said, that your course was the abstracdy right 
one. Worldly wisdom would, of course, have 
dictated a more conciliatory line of action. To 
be on terms of open hostility with your husband's 
family will not conduce to the happiness of your 
married life." 

At the beginning of this harangue Bonnybell 
had sat straight up in her chair to mark her 
respect by an attitude of close attention. Her 
hands now clutched the arms tiU her knuckle-bones 
stood out through the white skin. 

" But I shall not have any married life," she 
sighed in a trembling tone that yet seemed to 
mean what it said. 

"Not have any married life!" repeated Mrs. 
Tancred, with such an accent as made Miss Ran- 
some wonder whether the words could indeed be 
her own. " I am quite at a loss. I thought I 
understood you to say that your Jianci" (never 
since his clandestine courtship had the young man 
been Toby) — " that your Jianci did not share his 
family's suspicions ? " 

" He does not, he does not ! " cried Bonnybell, 
in a sort of half-real, half-bogus rapture. "He 
is absolutely stanch. He would marry me to-night 
if he could. Oh, it is something to have one 
person believe in you like that ; but it is / who, 
after what has happened, will not marry him," 


The hour was late before the junta that sat upon 
Miss Ransome's affairs of the heart separated for 
the night. 

" Not marry him" Camilla had repeated, with 
a terrible trenchancy, " after all that has happened 
— after the way in which you pursued him ? " 

Miss Ransome waived, with wise magnanimity, 
discussion of the unflattering phrase. 

"It is for his sake," she said, in sweet re- 
nunciation. *' There can be no happiness in 
married life without confidence, as you have 
often told me, and since I seem to have enemies 
who stab me in the dark, this thing may happen 
again ; and though he does not believe now, he 
may gradually grow to suspect that there may 
be something in it, and his people will work 
upon him till they persuade him that I am — what 
they think me." 

Her voice was broken, and her air so much 
that of the widowed dove, that it took her hearers 
a minute or two to disentangle the cool common 
sense of her utterances from its emotional fringes 
and tags. 

" You seem to be ready to give up rather 


easily what you stuck at nothing to secure," 
Camilla said, in a voice of vexed puzzledom ; and 
Edward's voice raised itself for almost the first 
time in one of those tentative utterances that 
always gave the impression of his thinking every- 
body's opinion more valuable than his own — 

"It does not strike you that it is rather hard 
on Toby ? " 

Miss Ransome turned on this diffident new 
interlocutor eyes glorified by a lofty self-abnega- 

" He will think so now," she said, " but in 
ten years he will thank me." 

" I have known more unlikely things than 
that happen," Camilla said caustically, " and there 
is more sense and rationality in what you say 
than what I have hitherto thought you capable 
of; but still, if you are sincerely attached to 
the man — and I suppose that, after having sacri- 
ficed so much in the way of delicacy to gain his 
affections, you must at least be fond of him ? " 

She paused, leaving her sentence unbalanced, 
with an evident intention of obtaining an answer 
to its first half before proceeding to the second. 

Bonnybell hesitated a moment. Even if she 
had been enamoured of her Toby, she would have 
much preferred not to say so before Edward, and 

things being as they were However, she got 

out of the dilemma fairly well. 

" Need I answer that question ? " she asked, 
with virgin reticence. 

Camilla received this graceful parry with a 
puzzled " Humph ! " adding presently — 


" It does not seem to strike you that there is 
an injustice in punishing the man for what he 
has not done." 

" Punishing him ! " repeated Miss Ransome, 
in a tone of startled anguish. " Oh no, I am 
only giving him a little pain now, to save him 
a great deal of pain later." 

The baffled keenness on Camilla's face grew 
more acute, and its young object was also made 
aware by some sixth sense that Edward's acumen 
was also at fault through this new double in a 
course that had never run particularly straight. 

"You must have had an uncommonly un- 
pleasant three days," Mrs. Tancred remarked, 
after a ruminating space, " to be so anxious to 
loose what before you were so determined to 

Bonnybell could have spared these repeated 
allusions to the methods by which her conquest 
had been achieved, but she took it beautifully, 
and with gentle head drooped. 

"That is true. Whatever happens to me in 
the future, 1 do not think I can well have a 
bitterer cup to drink than what they have held 
to my lips for the last three days." 

A caught breath in one direction and a 
fidgeted foot in another here assured Miss 
Ransome that her simple oratory had told, and 
she hastened to go on striking while the iron 
was hot. 

"It was not only this last blow," she said, 
with a long shuddering sigh, " but all along 
they took pleasure in humiliating me, in showing 


up my ignorance and my foolishness — Heaven 
knows it was easy enough — and they were glad 
and ready to believe evil — even such unbelievable 
evil as this — of me ! " 

A mental gloss followed this last statement. 
" I am speaking truth, in a way ; it is unbelievable 
that any mother could have taken her daughter to 

M 's ; and even poor Claire would not have 

done it if she had not been even less herself 
than usual that night." 

A distinctly emotional pause ensued, which 
Camilla, with a movement of the shoulders as of 
one shaking off an unwelcome burden, broke. 

" Come," she said brusquely, " this will not do. 
You must not try to work upon our feelings. 
For once in your life you have been the aggrieved 
person. I own that I cannot myself comprehend " 
■ — drawing up her bony figure with a scornful 
dignity that for once made it seem beautiful in 
Bonnybell's eyes — " stooping to notice any accu- 
sation that took so low a form as an anonymous 
letter ; but we must not allow ourselves to be led 
away into an exaggeration of feeling. After all, 
the whole thing rests upon a misconception. 
They are good and conscientious people," (Miss 
Ransome was glad to verify that to make this 
admission cost Camilla what is vulgarly called a 
" swallow.") " When your innocence is proved, 
they will be the first to own themselves in the 

" How can it be proved ? " answered Bonny- 
beU, dejectedly. " How can any one rebut a 
charge that comes one does not know whence. 


and one does not know why ? " The falsehood 
came more easily this time, but prudence and 
something, too, of authentic feeling bid it not 
stand alone. "I would not thank them for 
believing in me when my innocence was proved. 
The people I love and bless are those who 
believe in me first, and do without proof." 

The description, though perhaps not quite 
accurately fitting her present audience, was ob- 
viously meant to cover them, and it was not very 
harshly that Camilla repressed this new excursion 
into the realms of the emotional. 

" If it is false," she said, not unkindly, though 
without any direct acknowledgment of Bonny- 
bell's magnificent compliment to her own and her 
husband's credulity, " you have only to wait, and 
it will die of itself. It is the essence of the false 
to perish." ("That is a bad look-out for me," 
thought Bonnybell, humorously, but she only 
bowed her head.) " The very monstrousness of 
the accusation " — indignation gave an unwonted 
quiver to the speaker's voice — "will kill it the 
more quickly, and even if it takes time, you can 
well afford to wait. A year, two years, might 
make you a little less grossly unfit for the duties 
of a wife and mother than you are now." 

Again Bonnybell bowed her head, and across 
Edward's memory there flashed in ludicrous in- 
congruity the recollection of Miss Ransome's 
views on maternity, as slightly but graphically 
sketched for his own benefit a few days earlier. 

" I have always heard that there is nothing so 
wearing as a long engagement," suggested Miss 


Ransome, presently, with much hesitancy — " nor 
so ruinous to the appearance," she was about to 
add, but thought better of it. 

The severity, singularly absent from her 
latest utterance, here showed signs of returning 
to Camilla's eye and tone. 

" I do not quite understand the drift of your 
remark. You cannot be suggesting the advisability 
of thrusting yourself into a family which would 
receive you in the spirit that characterizes the 
Aylmers' present attitude towards you." 

" No," replied Bonnybell, with a little heart- 
broken gesture of renunciation. " I meant that 
there is nothing for me but to give him up." 

She held to the same text through the hour 
and a half during which the debate lasted, although 
listening with the most attentive and sorrowing 
mildness to all the arguments that could be 
adduced on the other side. 

Arrived at the haven of her own room, she 
cast herself on the bed, and kissed it hysterically. 
" Was ever any one so glad to be back anywhere 
as I am to be here ? " she sighed out. " Oh, 
what a three days ! Did ever any one before go 
through three such days .'' I thought at the 
beginning of them that I had as tough a hide 
as most people. But oh, in five minutes they 
were through it. Barnacre, Catherine, shall I 
ever get their needles out of my skin ? " 

She turned over on her face for a moment or 
two to bury the memory of those poisoned pricks 
in the soothing softness of that hospitable pillow, 
then sat up on the edge of the bed, with her legs 


dangling, while her reflections took a less painful 
turn. " I suppose there is some truth in what 
poor Claire used to say, that all respectable 
women are ill-natured." 

She ruminated awhile upon this wise, witty, 
and tender saying of her departed parent. Then 
her thoughts returned to fact, from their excur- 
sion into theory. " And to think that Charlie 
should have turned out a blessing in disguise ! 
Without the help of his blackguardly letter — 
what an unspeakable sweep he is — how could I 
ever have got out of the impasse f Toby would 
never have let me go. Even now I should not 
be surprised at his putting a bullet into me 
to-morrow, as one is always seeing in the papers 
that grooms do to faithless kitchen-maids, when 
I give him his final congL Well, that would 
be the end, and the dear old camel and 
Edward would be rid of their incubus. Poor 
Toby ! How sea-sick the mere thought of 
him makes me ! How very sincerely I dislike 
men ! 

By this time she had jumped down from the 
bed and strolled to the cheval-glass. " I ought 
to do better — much better — than Toby," she said, 
appraising her reflection. " Of course, the last 
three days have ravaged me and added five years 
to my age, but that is only temporary. I shall 
probably go on improving up to twenty-five, and 
Toby has so very much less in his power to settle 
than I at first understood, and he unwisely let me 
see that he meant to keep me ten months of the 
year in the country. I am sorry to play into the 


hands of that detestable Barnacre, but it is 
really all for the best." 

With this piously optimistic reflection on her 
lips, she fell sweetly asleep. It was not the 
winter dawn, nor the voice of the tea-bearing 
housemaid, that awoke her. The electric light 
full on her eyes, shot her back from the land 
where all things are forgotten, into a consciousness 
that was at first but semi. Some one was standing 
over her, and a voice was in her ears, uttering 
sounds which presently resolved themselves into 

" You need not pretend to be asleep ; I was 
taken in once, but it is useless to try and deceive 
me a second time." 

Bonnybell sat up, hazily blinking, still only 
half outside the gateway of sleep, and gradually 
realized that the form towering above her in the 
grimness of its snuif-coloured toga, and the 
inexorability of its dragged-back grey hair, was 
no other than Camilla. 

" Is there anything wrong ? " she asked, 
rubbing her sleepy eyes with her knuckles — a 
delicious gesture for once perfectly natural. " Is 
it a fire, or burglars, or what ? " The empire 
of slumber was still too strong for there to be 
anything but misty indiiFerence to the calamities 
suggested in the speaker's tone. Then, with a 
sprmg back into full consciousness, and a 
frightened opening wide of the startled eyes, 
" Toby cannot have come already ? " 

"My conscience would not let me rest," 
replied Mrs. Tancred, with a ruthless lack of 


apology for her intrusion, and a still incomplete 
belief in the genuineness of the drowsiness so 
ably presented. " Reflecting afterwards on the 
lightness with which you spoke of ' throwing 
over ' and ' giving up ' what you had sacrificed so 
much to win, I felt you could not realize that you 
were sacrificing what may never be offered to you 
again, the disinterested, protecting, shared devotion 
of an honourable English gentleman. To love and 
be loved worthily, perfectly — the most aspiring 
of us cannot hope to get nearer heaven on this 
side the grave than this ! " 

Camilla spoke the last sentence more as if to 
herself than to her auditor, and left the room 
immediately afterwards, as if ashamed. The 
dignity and solemnity of her utterance dispersed 
the ridicule attendant on such a Priestess of Eros, 
even in the trivial and hopelessly flippant mind of 
Bonnybell, and converted her mirth into a more 
human compassion. 

" Poor dear old woman ! I wish Edward 
could bring himself to be a little more demon- 
strative to her ; but it would never do to give 
him a hint. So I am never to have another 
Toby! Well" — chuckling and yet shuddering 
too — " that is a deprivation I can well bear." 


The morning had come, and with it Toby, As 
Bonnybell, propitiatingly punctual, appeared at 
the exactly nine-o'clock breakfast-table, she was 
informed by the butler, whose tone — the really 
perfectly colourless one of a well-trained servant 
— seemed to her ear vibrating with the com- 
passion which all creation must feel for her, that 
Mr. Aylmer had been waiting for an hour and a 
half in the morning-room, and would be glad to 
speak to her as soon as she was at liberty. 

The object of this very morning call cast a 
dismayed glance at her protectors. 

" At home he is never down till long past 
ten ! " 

" An extremely bad habit, and a very good 
thing that he should be broken of it," answered 
Camilla, unable, even at so dramatic a moment, to 
refrain from lifting up her voice in testimony 
against the vicious indulgence aUuded to ; but 
her hand rattled the cups of tea which, in con- 
tempt of servants and sideboards, she always 
made herself. 

" I suppose I ought not to keep him wait- 
ing any longer," said Bonnybell, turning with 



extreme reluctance from the tempting, gleaming 
table, with its beautiful old green dragon china 
and its Queen Anne silver, towards the door of 

" You had better have a cup of coffee and 
something to eat first," Camilla said peremptorily. 
" A painful scene should never be faced upon an 
empty stomach." 

The homely common sense of the advice 
came to the aid of its imperativeness, and 
Bonnybell eagerly drank the offered coffee, and 
with some difficulty swallowed a scrap of toast. 
But still she lingered. The entrance of a servant 
with a lengthy message for Mrs. Tancred gave 
the girl the opportunity for a word with Edward, 
who had not yet sat down to the table. 

" You would not come too, I suppose, to back 
me up ? " she asked with low precipitation, casting 
a glance out of the corner of her eyes towards 
Camilla. But her alarm in that direction was 
unnecessary, as it was one of the rules of Mrs. 
Tancred's life always to give her whole attention 
to the subject that at the moment engaged her ; 
and though her interest in Miss Ransome's love 
affair was undoubtedly keener than that she felt 
for the third housemaid's quinsy, the latter, while 
she was being informed of it, entirely swept the 
former from her attention. 

At the strange request made him, Edward's 
features took on an expression which the petitioner 
at once recognized as not one of acquiescence. 

" Poor chap, don't you think he has a right 
to his last chance ? " 


"Very well," she rejoined, with a hysteric 
laugh, and half holding out a hand. " Good-bye, 
if you never see me again." 

" What do you mean ? " 

" I mean that when a person is in the state of 
mind he is, poor fellow, one does not know what 
may happen." 

Her face was white as a magnolia, and yet 
contradictorily lovelier for the very absence of 
those reds which had seemed, when present, to 
make up half its beauty, and her eyes were full 
of a valedictory solemnity ; facts of which, for 
once, she was all but quite unconscious. 

" Do you mean to say that you are afraid of 
his being personally violent ; if so " 

To her disordered fancy there sounded an 
echo of contempt in the form of the question. 

"I am not much apt to be afraid," she 
answered quietly, and a something in her tiny 
face, for all its blanching, confirmed the assertion. 
" I do not much mind if he does shoot me. 
What have I to lose now ? " 

" Do you care as much as that ? " 

There was a horrified astonishment in his 
tone, as if remorseful for some former incredulity, 
and for once Nature was too strong for Bonny- 
bell. She saw in the mirror of Edward's face 
that there must be a scornful denial of his accusa- 
tion on her own. But in a flash she had again 
taken hold of herself and of her part. Not for 
a second must she forget, or let others forget, 
that she was broken-hearted at the loss of Toby. 

" It would be a solution : and — and — it is 


not easy to have two people to fight, myself as 
well as him ! Wish me well through it 1 " She 
was gone. 

The engagement had lasted three hours, so 
the clock told the watchers, who — not together, 
for Camilla had rigorously forced herself to her 
daily desk — were awaiting the issue of the duel. 

"I am glad that you let yourself be per- 
suaded by me not to go to London to-day," 
Edward's wife had said to him before withdrawing. 

"I do not quite know what good I do by 
staying," he answered restlessly. 

" In the case of two such perfectly undisci- 
plined natures one never knows what develop- 
ments may arise," she rejoined. 

With this imperfect consolation for his 
wasted morning, she left him. Since then, 
against his will, chidden by his common sense — 
for was not the smoking-room that held his 
uneasy idleness miles away from the morning- 
room } — he had been listening, asking himself 
whether, although unquestionably out of reach 
of any ordinary sound, the noise of — say a pistol 
or revolver shot might not penetrate to his 
straining ears .? In vain to argue down the 
ludicrous idea. Did the danger seem real to her. 
or was the suggestion only thrown out to give 
herself a heightened interest in his eyes ? She 
was quite capable of it. Not frightened either. 
Seldom as — he now realized — she spoke truthj 
she had spoken it then. Blanched with excitement, 
not fear. 


Had Mr. Tancred's eye been able to verify or 
correct the notions upon the current melodrama 
presented by his imagination, he would have seen 
the object of his speculations in even sorer straits 
than he had pictured her. The end of those dire 
hours left her and her antagonist exactly where 
it found them. From the engulfment of the 
initial embrace her spirit had cried out to itself, 
" This is exceedingly disagreeable, but I suppose 
it will end some time. How glad I am that I 
drank dear Camilla's coffee ! I do not think 
I could have gone through with it if I had not ! 
His tears are taking all the curl out of my fringe. 
Poor devil, if he only knew how little worth while 
it all is ! " 

The same inward ejaculations were pouring 
themselves forth in her inmost soul at the end 
of the three hours, when her situation was no 
further amended than that she was sitting on a 
chair — a simulated swoon had gained her this con- 
cession — with Toby kneeling before her, his un- 
invited head rolling about upon her knees — 
while between loud sobs he formulated, with the 
iteration of a jay or a pie, his simple thesis : 
" You said you loved me ! You promised to 
marry me ! I have done nothing to make you 
change your mind ! You cannot, and shall not 
chuck me." 

Against the rock of this unanswerable logic 
her rhetoric had for one hundred and eighty 
minutes broken in vain. There was not a single 
weapon in her not ill-furnished armoury that she 
had not employed ; and all with a like result. 


" Wounded honour ? " His family en bloc or 
severally should follow her round the room on 
their knees, imploring her pardon, and eating 
their words. "Tears?" He beat her hollow 
at them, " A vow never to love any one else ? " 
This in her present nausea of endearments seemed 
a vow easy indeed to keep, but it was received 
with frenzy at the mere suggestion of such a 
possibility. The offer to be a sister to him and 
to be god-daughter to his eldest child when he 
was happily married to some one else were not 
up to her usual level of cleverness, and would not 
have been put forward had her mind been in its 
normal condition. Their effect was terrifying ! 

Physically exhausted, she leaned back in her 
chair, quite at her wits' end, mechanically strok- 
ing with some dim hope of keeping it quiet the 
distraught head which, rolling about in sandy 
abandonment on her lap, pinned her to her 
seat. Never did a more poignant regret at the 
success of its own handiwork fill a human 
mind. " I ought to have known more about 
him before I went in for him so thoroughly, 
but who would have guessed that under that 
stodgy outside there was " anything like this f " 

Another hour had passed, and yet another, 
and still the situation remained at the same hope- 
less deadlock. Occasionally the head lifted itself 
and the mouth repeated its pitiful parrot cry, and 
once, twice, thrice again, Miss Ransome went 
through the weapons of her armoury. In her 
desperation she tried a new one ; offered — in utter 
hopelessness of ever ridding herself of him on 


cheaper terms — a compromise. If he would go 
away for a year, round the world — every one went 
round the world nowadays — in a year she might 
be cleared and made more worthy of him ; and at 
the end " 

He interrupted her with the brutal directness 
of one who had got through the civilized surface 
of things to the bed-rock of mere Nature, while 
a sort of cunning flashed into his dimmed and 
bloodshot eyes. 

" I should find you waiting for me ? " 

" That you undoubtedly would not ! " was the 
reply made by herself to herself, but for him there 
was a little tired sigh, and an "Ah ! if you 
cannot trust me " 

At that he went oiF into extravagances, in- 
coherent assertions of the impossibility of any one 
seeing without longing to possess her ; of the 
madness of leaving her as a mark for other men's 

She coUapsed into silence. " Will no one 
ever arrive to rescue me ? " The answer seemed 
to come in a loud whirring familiar sound, the 
prosaic boom of the gong. 

" It is luncheon ! " she cried. " You must not 
keep me ! " 

" You can think of luncheon now ! " 

" They are very particular, very strict about 
hours," she answered, casting wildly about for the 
rope that even now seemed to dangle just out of 
her reach, " and — and — dreadful, agonizing as it 
is to part thus, I must not — now of all times — 
do anything to alienate my only friends." 


He had lifted his head to make his protest, 
and she had nimbly taken advantage of the fact to 
slide eel-like away from him, and make for the 
door. He was there before her. But just as he 
reached it the mahogany portal swung open, and 
in the aperture stood a tranquil black form. 

" If you please, sir, Mrs. Tancred wished 
me to say that she hoped you would stay to 

There was a moment's pause while the full 
bathos of the situation made itself felt. Then 
civilization resumed her sway, the primaeval 
instincts retired into the background, and the 
unfortunate Toby, averting his hideously dis- 
figured face, and swallowing his last sob, 
answered thickly — 

" Oh, thanks very much, but I am afraid I 
am engaged." 

This, however, in one sense was just what he 
was not. 


" She would, I should think, be glad if you let 
her have luncheon sent up to her." 

"I have no opinion of food eaten in bed- 
rooms. If people are well enough to eat, they 
are well enough to come downstairs ; but she is 
probably not fit to be seen, so for once I will 
relax my rule." 

These two remarks, to which it would be 
superfluous to assign their respective ownerships, 
were all the comment upon the recent melodrama 
at first possible to the reluctant managers upon 
whose stage it had been played. They ate their 
luncheon in ruffled silence. 

The revolt in Camilla's Puritan soul against 
the orgy of ungoverned passion which had chosen 
her house for its scene was incongruously mixed 
with an angry compassion, which suspected itself of 
being something even more lenient towards the 
cause of the whole uproar, while a very sincere 
annoyance at the unavoidable and imminent split 
between herself and her nearest and most con- 
genial neighbours threw in its pinch of bitterness 
to the distasteful brew. 

Edward's feelings on the subject were even 


more complicated and less agreeable. Vexation at 
his own folly in allowing himself to be persuaded 
to forego his day's work on the chance of a need- 
less intervention in what no wise concerned him, 
a compassion even keener than his wife's, but in 
his case dedicated chiefly to Toby, coupled with a 
dim but still existing satisfaction in his discom- 
fiture, and that again with a biting self-disgust 
for being capable of such a sensation, — these 
ingredients composed no pleasant potion. 

" It is to be hoped that, at all events, this will 
end the affair," Camilla said, when at length they 
were alone, with a sigh of stretched endurance. 

" I suppose that the length of the interview 
looks like it," he answered. 

" Does it ? " she rejoined, her nervous irri- 
tation wreaking itself, as it had so often done 
before in their married life, in causelessly stinging 
words upon him. " I dare say you know more 
about these kind of extravagant love scenes than 
I do. You certainly cannot know less." 

He smiled a little sadly. " Mine was a very 
simple deduction ; if she had relented, Toby 
would not have foregone his luncheon." 

" That is true," she said, mollified by his 
gentleness, a gentleness that yet never prevented 
the recurrence of her stings, " and I was un- 
necessarily snappish, as you must often find me. 
Poor little wretch ! She has shown more principle 
and grit than I gave her credit for, if she has 
kept to her renunciation of him." 

Edward was silent. The having lived in the 
house with Bonnybell for several weeks had 


possibly made him more attached to rigid truth 
than ever before ; and the motive of her heroic 
abandonment was still too obscure to him for him 
to be able to join as cordially as he would have 
liked in encomiums of it. 

" It is, of course, a severe trial to have her 
returned upon our hands, when we had thought 
our responsibility nearly ended ; but we must try 
not to let her see it — a needless caution to you, 
whose tendency is always towards over-indulgence 
— but in this case I should be in agreement with 
you ; in a mind like hers, the first germs of good 
cannot be too carefully fostered." 

Edward's acquiescence in this plan of campaign, 
though really a fervent one, was indicated only 
by a slight nod, and Mrs. Tancred went on, 
the leniency and forbearance of her first pro- 
posal sliding into a withering sarcasm. 

"Our friendship with the Aylmers is, of course, 
at an end ; and doubtless this is only the begin- 
ning. An easy calculation will tell us how soon 
we shall be deprived of all acquaintances who 
number an unmarried male member among their 
family ; perhaps " — the edge of her weapon grow- 
ing keener, and fancy taking a bitter flight — 
"perhaps, indeed, the limitation to a«-married 
male members is superfluous ! " 

Was it a happy moment for the object of 
this philippic to appear in person to answer it ? 
Happy or unhappy, there she was. Scarcely had 
the climax of her forebodings as to the ultimate 
result of her hospitality passed Camilla's lips 
when Bonnybell stood before her. But what a 


Bonnybell ! What a blurred, dimmed, dishevelled, 
altogether lamentable Bonnybell ! A drowned toy 
terrier is the only image that for wretchedness, 
smallness, dilapidation, and pathos, could at all 
convey the idea of the figure that now presented 
itself to its protectors. 

" I do not want any luncheon," the dim ghost 
said in a voice that matched its face, " and I 
know that you do not approve of people eating 
things in their rooms ; but thank you so much, 
all the same, for thinking of it ! Oh, if I once 
begin to thank you, when shall I stop ? " She 
ended with a low wail. 

" Don't be hysterical," replied Camilla, hastily. 
" Edward, go and fetch her a glass of port wine and 
a biscuit. The servants must not see her. There, 
lie down and go to sleep. What is the use of 
crying yourself into a jelly just because for once 
in your life you have behaved properly ? " 

Edward departed on his errand with the 
greatest alacrity, glad to escape from the horrible 
yearning of angry pity that the sight of Bonnybell 
in her distorted misery inspired him with, and 
from the grating severity of his wife's voice. Yet 
he took with him a feeling more subtly unpleasant 
than those from which he fled — the suspicion, 
namely, that the very abandonment of Miss Ran- 
some's woe was in itself partly a pose. " She 
might have washed her face and combed her hair," 
he said to himself wrathfuUy ; but the wrath, if 
not quite the suspicion, died down, swallowed in 
an immense pity as her trembling hand took the 
oflfered glass from his, and her sunk and diminished 


eyes lifted themselves in mute gratitude. " Poor 
little soul ! It can be no parti pris that has 
dwindled her to half her size ; and even if she has 
tried to make a bid for the compassion of the only 
friends left to her in the world by intentional 
accentuation of a forlornness real enough in all 
conscience without accenting, isn't she even for 
that poor deceit the more an object of the pro- 
foundest, most lenient sympathy ? " 

By this time Love's victim had been ordered 
to a sofa ; and Camilla's knuckly hands were 
arranging a crocheted shawl of their own manufac- 
ture over the little shivering body with an air of 
protest that was yet not ungentle. 

"You may go now," she said, addressing her 
husband brusquely in a key that, though also 
protesting, yet seemed to convey the impression 
that her unwonted occupation was not altogether 
disagreeable to her ; " there is nothing to make 
a fuss about. She will have quite recovered from 
this silly lapse from self-control by teatime." 

This, as it turned out, was a slight over-state- 
ment of Miss Ransome's powers of recuperation, 
and when Edward forced himself to reappear at 
five o'clock, mastering a strong spasm of aesthetic 
dread at the expected sight of the miserable 
little object that he had carried on the retina of 
his eyes throughout his ride, he found, to his 
relief, that she had asked leave to retire to 

" Would it be wise to send for the doctor ? " 
Edward asked rather futilely, and received the 
withering response he deserved. 


" The doctor ? Why, Hutton would laugh 
in my face. She is simply sharing the necessity, 
common to us all, of enduring the consequences 
of her own actions. If she will lash up men by 
illicit means into the state to which she has reduced 
this headstrong and rather brainless young man, 
she must not complain of the result. One can 
only hope that it will be a lesson to her not to 
repeat the achievement. From what 1 can gather, 
I do not think that she had a very agreeable 

The marks of the forenoon alluded to were 
still plainly visible on Miss Ransome's face when, 
punctual to the moment, she placed herself next 
morning at the breakfast-table. Her eyes were 
stiU reduced to half their size, and the reds still 
absent from her cheek. She had regarded her 
own countenance in the glass before coming down 
to breakfast, with an artist's regret at the prohibi- 
tion laid on her by prudence to throw in the little 
repairs and improvements which might have been 
easily effected in the mirror before her. " I 
begin to be afraid," she said to herself, thought- 
fully, " that I shall 'go off' sooner than 1 expected. 
I depend very much upon colour, but it would 
be madness to touch up. I must try and keep 
pale, without whitening, for at least a week. I 
wonder when my spirits may begin to improve 
after such a blow ? " 

She chuckled a little, but not very heartily. 
"It has shaken me a good deal, all the same. 
Poor devil, I wonder how he is feeling this 


morning ! I would give a good deal — a safe offer, 
as I do not possess a sixpence — that I had let him 
alone. But how is one to tell ? He looked so 

With a sigh of real regret for the accomplished 
mischief, she went downstairs with the spring- 
less step that her really shaken nerves and the 
maintenance of her supposed condition of spirits 
dictated. A fresh blow awaited her. 

" I am afraid that you are not yet at the end 
of your difficulties," Camilla said, and the rigidity 
of her tone revealed that some unpleasant new 
development of the situation had shown itself. 

Miss Ransome gave a gasp. She had come 
down thinking that a little chastened demon- 
strativeness towards her benefactress might not, 
under the circumstances, come amiss, but Camilla's 
tone froze the little rill of gush at its source. 

" He has not come back ? " The words 
would scarcely form themselves for the terror 
behind them. 

The question was ignored, and Camilla, faith- 
ful to her principle of never blinking, veiling, 
or delaying the conveyance of bad news to its 
lawful owner, explained her announcement of yet 
unaccomplished calamity. 

" Mrs. Aylmer has written to announce that 
she and her eldest daughter propose to be here 
at eleven o'clock this morning, for the purpose 
of begging you to reconsider your decision." 

The carefully matter-of-fact key in which this 
fact was delivered did not disguise from Bonny- 
bell the profound annoyance underlying it. Her 


own stupefaction at it was so great as to restore 
her wholly to Nature. 

" And is Miss Barnacre coming too ? " was all 
that her white lips could stammer. A reassur- 
ing snort from Camilla — the war-horse snorl 
which the name of the too progressive governess 
always evoked — reassured Bonnybell on this head, 
and she was presently able to add, " He has made 
them do it." 

"So Mrs. Aylmer says," referring to a lettei 
lying open before her, and relentlessly reading 
aloud the sentence alluded to. " I cannot, cannol 
lose my boy — my only boy 1 And the state he h 
in gives us well-founded fears for his life or 

A flash of wondering contempt for a life so 
lightly forfeited and a reason so easily upsetj 
darted across BonnybeU's brain ; but it is need- 
less to say that no hint of such a feeling was to be 
read on her tiny woe-wrung visage. 

" Oh, how little worth enduring so much for 
I am ! " she moaned. 

" Very little indeed ; but truisms will not 
help us." 

"What is the use of their coming?" con- 
tinued the young creature, still with that moaning 
intonation, but gathering her wits about her, and 
seasoning pathos with common sense. "What 
is the use of my seeing them .'' Nothing is 
changed. It cannot be that in so short a time 
they have found out that they have wronged me 
— that — that the accusation they were so ready 
to bring against me was a false one ? " 


A pang of real apprehension nipped Miss 
Ransome at this supposed solution, but she was 
quickly reassured. 

" Nothing is changed," replied Mrs. Tancred, 
solemnly. "Least of all the immutable, eternal 
law, that we must abide the consequences of our 
own actions. You have made your bed, and you 
must lie on it. You had better be in the morning- 
room by eleven to receive them." 

There was no need for artificial face-whitening 

" You will be there too ? " 

" Why should I .'' It is not I who have 
brought discord and disunion among them." 

A transient — very transient — gleam of amuse- 
ment shot through Bonnybell's brain at the idea 
of Camilla's charms working havoc in any happy 
home, but it was gone, engulfed in gloom before 
she had realized its presence. 

" I know that 1 have no right to ask it," she 
said, throwing all she knew of humility, deference, 
and desperate beseechment into her voice, " but 
the knowledge that you were near me — that you 
thought I was in the right — it is so seldom that 
you have been able to think me in the right 
— would be the one thing that could enable me 
to go through with it. I — I feel rather shaken, 
after yesterday, and — and as if — I could not bear 
much more." 

There was a pause. Perhaps the appeal, 
borne on its helpless low wail, went straight to 
the ever-empty mother heart of Mrs. Tancred. 
The girl before her was an ill-conducted little 


adventuress, but if everything about her, except 
that clinging attitude of prayer for help and 
belief in her power to aid, had been different, 
it would have been sweet to have called her 


The visitors, arriving ten minutes before their 
appointed hour, were welcomed — though that is 
scarcely the word to express the profoundly grave 
and fully armed civility of Mrs. Tancred's 
attitude — by Camilla alone. 

" She will not see us ? " 

The primal emotions had, in one respect, 
acted upon Mrs. Aylmer in the same manner as 
upon her son. Gentle and suave-mannered as 
she usually was, to-day she had evidently for- 
gotten, or at least brushed aside, all the conven- 
tions. What place had they in the map of such a 
calamity as hers ? 

" Of course, she will see you," replied Mrs. 
Tancred, with a dignified acquiescence in the 
abolishing of all preliminaries, and ready, as usual, 
to go direct to the heart of the matter ; " that 
is to say, if, after what I have to tell you from 
her, you still think it advisable." 

" What have you to tell us ? " — coming a pace 
or two nearer, as if to snatch the answer more 
quickly — " that she is ready to renew her engage- 
ment ? Oh, it must be that." 



"She is «o/ ready to renew it," replied Camilla 
coldly ; " why should she be ? " 

For a moment the other was too knocked ou 
of time by this answer to do anything more pur 
poseful than give a sort of stagger, and the com 
batants looked at each other in silence, Camill; 
noting, with a rather grudging, yet not shallov 
compassion, how dreadfully ill and aged he: 
friend looked. She and her daughter were botl 
dressed in black, as Volumnia and Virgilia had beei 
on their mission, and though Mrs. Aylmer wa: 
as litde like Volumnia as Bonnybell was lik( 
Coriolanus, the motive of their dusky habit wa: 
the same. 

" I am sure that you would be the last persor 
to encourage her in such a revengeful spirit,' 
Catherine said presently, speaking for the firsi 
time, and with a good deal less of heartbreali 
and a good deal more of resentment in her voict 
than had found place in her mother's. "Ol 
course, we had never wished to be connected with 
her. How could we ? And when this hideous 
accusation came, we naturally waited for an ex- 
planation of it, but she would give none. She 
simply walked out of the house." 

" And in my judgment it was the only course 
of action open to a decent woman after such an 
insult," replied Camilla, incisively. Mrs. Tancred 
had never been very fond of Miss Aylmer, but 
her conscience, alarmed now at the pleasure she 
was aware of deriving from snubbing her, drove 
her into an admission of the justice of a part, 
at least, of Catherine's contention. " I perfectly 


agree with you in your unwillingness to be 
connected with Miss Ransome, and congratulate 
you sincerely on having escaped so very real a 

*' But we have not escaped it ; we do not 
want to escape it ! You must not call it a 
peril," cried Mrs. Aylmer, incoherently, dis- 
tracted at the injury which was evidently being 
done to the cause she had come prepared to 
spend her heart's blood in pleading. " I dare 
not go back without her. You have no concep- 
tion of the state he is in. He has renounced us 
all. He swears he will never see one of our faces 
again. He has said things that I could not have 
believed possible to me — his own mother. Oh, 
if you had children of your own, you would 
understand, but of course you cannot ; how 
should you ? " 

Mrs. Tancred met the half-unconscious cruelty 
of this tearing open of one of the two lifelong 
raws of her life with Lacedaemonian fortitude. 
If she suffered she showed it only by a slight 
addition to the cold kindness in the controlled 
and measured words of her next speech. 

" I am extremely sorry for his and your 
sufferings ; even my naturally defective sympathy 
tells me how acute they are. My concern is the 
deeper as they have been inflicted by a member 
of my household." 

" Oh, we do not blame you for that ! " put in 
Catherine, resuming the rok of spokeswoman 
with something like eagerness. " We are not so 
unjust. Of course, when you took her in you 


had as little knowledge as we of what she really 

Camilla turned upon her apologist with a 
frosty rebuke in her keen eyes. 

" I have no wish to be exonerated from 
blame for doing what I — mistakenly, perhaps — 
conceived to be my duty. Nor, since you need no 
longer lie under any apprehension of nearer con- 
nection with her, can it concern you what Miss 
Ransome really is or is not." 

" Oh, Catherine, what a false impression you 
are giving," broke in Mrs. Aylmer, with some- 
thing of the distraught readiness of the real 
mother in the Judgment of Solomon to say any- 
thing or do anything that would save her son. 
"It is no question of what she is or is not, and 
we are sure that she is everything that is nice and 
right, and we ought never to have taken any 
notice of that abominable letter. It was against 
my judgment that we did it." 

" It seemed right to give her an opportunity 
of clearing herself," replied Miss Aylmer, in a 
crestfallen voice, and with a suspicion of nearing 
tears ; " at least, so it seemed to a valuable outside 

"You are alluding to Miss Barnacre, I pre- 
sume r 

There was such a belligerent note in the 
query that Mrs. Aylmer's alarm at the adverse way 
in which her battle was going rose to panic. 

" Send for Bonnybell ! " she cried, with hysteri- 
cal imperativeness. " I must and will see her. If 
she is not a fiend — if she has not the heart of a 


stone, she cannot help relenting, when she sees to 
what a state she has brought us all." 

Thus it came about that two or three minutes 
later Miss Ransome, who had been kept in readi- 
ness by Camilla's order, to be produced if her 
presence were insisted on, appeared on the scene. 
As she stole in mouse - quiet, snowdrop - pale, 
the recollection of the last occasion on which she 
had been summoned to the same room to meet 
the same two persons darted into her mind. She 
saw herself frisking up to Mrs. Aylmer, confident of 
an excellent reception ; and the scene of ignominy 
and disgrace for her that had followed upon that 
ludicrous accusation of having corrupted stupid 
Meg's mind. She was in a better position now ; 
arbiter of the destinies of a whole highly respect- 
able family, she, Bonnybell, poor Claire's daughter ! 
A spasm of unforgivable laughter seemed likely for 
a moment to choke her ; but the disagreeables of 
a situation out of which it would take all her in- 
genuity to wriggle herself conjured it. 

" We have come to beg you to forgive us ! " 
Mrs. Aylmer said, precipitating herself to meet 
the object of her entreaties, and speaking with a 
trembling eagerness of humility which in its 
reversal of their natural attitude towards each 
other gave even Bonnybell a shock. 

Before entering the room she had been putting 
to herself the humorous suggestion, " Shall I 
make them walk round the room on their knees 
to me, as poor Toby volunteered that they 
should .? " That question now received a decided 
negative. "It really would not give me any 


pleasure ! " The ravages it was impossible not to 
verify on the smooth middle-aged fairness of her 
would-be mother-in-law's face gave Miss Ransome 
anew the measure of the mischief she had done. 
" Poor creature ! she looks nearly as bad as Toby 
did .! I am afraid that 1 have given her a couple 
of crow's-feet that she will never get the better 
of ! " 

" We do not blame you for a moment ; it 
was perfectly natural that you should do it, but 
perhaps it was a little hasty to leave us all in a 
minute, without a word." 

This plea was poured forth with such painful 
velocity that its utterer had to stop to draw breath, 
and Bonnybell felt that she must speak. She 
would far rather have stood silent in her impreg- 
nable fortress of injured maiden weakness. 

" I supposed that you could not wish to keep 
such a — wicked girl^ — any longer under your 

There was not the slightest tinge of vindictive- 
ness in her tone, as indeed she felt none ; the 
desire to come with flying colours out of a tight 
place, coupled with a very sincere if cool pity for 
the victims before her, leaving no place for any 
less amiable feeling in her mind. 

" But we do not think you a wicked girl ; it 
was all a misapprehension, and we quite see that 
we ought never to have shown you that — that 
disgraceful letter, or taken any notice of it. It was 
contrary to my opinion that it was shown you. 
No doubt the person whose idea it was, meant 
well, and we have got into a way of depending 


on her judgment ; but it will be a long time 
before I can forgive her for the harm she has 

" She always means well," Catherine inter- 
jected, casting a reproachful glance out of tear- 
brimmed eyes at her mother for thus throwing 
the family oracle to the wolves. 

" I suppose that you are alluding to Miss 
Barnacre," Bonnybell said mildly, and glad to 
escape from the main issue into any side alley of 
the subject, " but please do not blame her ; from 
her point of view she was perfectly right." 

"It is very generous of you to say so " — giving 
a final push overboard to the family sage — " and 
she will be as ready as we are to beg your pardon. 
She shall do it as soon as we get home. I am 
come to take you home with us." 

There was a quivering asseveration in the 
announcement of this intention that tried to 
exclude all possibility of question from it, but 
Bonnybell only gently shook her head. 

" I dare not go back without you ! I dare not 
face him ! I do not know what you have done 
to him, but — oh no " — hurriedly correcting her 
phrase, in fear of its giving oiFence, " I do not 
mean that you have done anything ; but — the — 
possibility of losing you — not that there is any 
danger of it now that everything is explained — 
has almost unhinged his reason." 

Once again a very profound regret for the 
completeness of her own handiwork occupied Miss 
Ransome's mind, and for one second the idea of 
yielding to the frantic entreaties of the poor mother 


before her, who had got hold of her hands, and 
was unconsciously but painfully grinding their 
little knuckles together, presented itself. One 
" yes " would end this odious scene — odious since 
the humiliation of her humiliators gave her none 
of the gratification she had faindy anticipated from 
it ; and, after all, marriage with Toby would still be, 
in a sense, the harbour of refuge she had once 
thought it. But before she had taken any false 
step, a head much stronger than her heart and a 
poignant recollection of the horrors of yesterday 
came to her rescue. The anchorage was not 
nearly so good as she had believed, and how could 
any union be endurable between two persons whose 
views of matrimony differed so diametrically as 
hers and Toby's } Hers a cool commercial 
bargain, sweetened by camaraderie and lightened 
by indifference ; his — a sick qualm passed over 
her at the recollection, only twenty-four hours old, 
of yesterday's agony of balked animalism ; and 
the knowledge, relieved by no maiden ignorance, 
that the detested experience was only the porch 
to the mansion which Toby had prepared for her 
to dwell in. 

But the instant of hesitation gave the crushed 
Catherine time and opportunity to throw in a 
phrase of exaggerated humility. 

" Would you mind telling us what else we 
can do .'' " 

Bonnybell gave a slight groan. In her nature 
there was no vindictiveness, and the sight and sound 
of the absolute abasement of her enemies before her 
was for the moment undoubtedly disagreeable to 


her ; though a reflex action of her mind suggested 
that by-and-by she might find some matter for 
complacency in it. But meanwhile she must find 
something to say that would be noble and 
magnanimous and, above all, final ; and, what is 
more, not overdo it. " I must say something 
very beautiful," she reflected, "and where on 
earth am I to lay my hands upon it ? " 

"What else can you say?" she ended by 
sighing out, as if crushed under the weight of so 
enormous a suggestion. " Oh, nothing, nothing ! 
You have said a great deal too much already ; 
more — oh, how much more ! — than I am worth." 

" This is waste of time," said Camilla, 
striking in for the first time ; and something in 
the sound of her harsh voice gave the sorely bested 
heroine a sense of being backed up which nothing 
in the unbiassed words justified. "These ladies 
have asked you categorically two questions ; and 
you must answer them in the same way. Will 
you, or will you not, return with them to the 
Dower House, and resume your engagement to 
their son and brother ? " 

" No, a thousand times no," replied Bonnybell, 
dropping upon those pliant knees, on which in 
any emergency she was ever ready to fall — " not 
while I lie under this dreadful cloud. I would 
far sooner die than bring a slur on his honoured 
name !" (" Bad and stagey," was her own impartial 
inward comment on this flight. " Oh, how thank- 
ful I am that Edward did not hear it 1 He has 
such good taste. How it would have disgusted 
him ! ") 


"That being the case," continued Camilla, in 
an arid voice, whose matter-of-fact dryness did 
not give the impression of having been much 
affected by Bonnybell's magnanimous outburst, 
and thereby confirmed its author's own ill opinion 
of her achievement — " such being the case, there 
is no use in prolonging this painful scene. You 
had better leave the room ; that is to say, if you 
are quite sure that your answer is final." 

" But it cannot be final ! " cried Mrs. Aylmer, 
with almost a shriek, losing all self-control, and 
pouring out her words in a boiling strain of in- 
coherent violence. " I will not hear of its being 
final ! You cannot have understood what I was 
saying. I must have expressed myself ill. I teU 
you that I dare not go back without you. You 
do not realize what a state you have brought him 
to. I could not have believed it myself if I had 
not seen it with my own eyes. If I do not bring 
you back he will blow his brains out ! Do you 
understand that ? Oh, what am I saying ? I am 
only setting you more against me. But just 
think what a case I am in ! Only one son, and 
he hating and cursing me ! You will have a son 
yourself some day " — Bonnybell gave an imper- 
ceptible shudder ; maternity played but a small 
and unhandsome part in her life's programme — 
" and some one will rob you of him, and then 
you will feel as I do towards you ! " 

She broke off, suffocated, and flinging the 
girl's hands from her with a gesture of despair 
and rage. 

" 1 must go into hysterics," BonnybeU said 


to herself, " there is nothing else for it, and I do 
feel very miserable and upset. I had better make 
as much noise as I can. I shall be the sooner 
sent out of the room." She was as good as 
her word. 


In the height of a simoom it seems incredible 
that the face of Nature should ever recover 
from its distortion and resume its smiles and 
dimples, yet a few hours effect this marvellous 
restoration. In the case of the Stillington simoom 
it took less than a week to remove the more 
obvious signs of the devastation it had caused 
in its destructive passage. In less than a week 
the Aylmers had not only ceased to be the only 
subject of conversation, but by tacit consent had 
been banished from it as too painful a topic for 
even incidental allusion. In less than a week the 
distracted Toby, having thought better of — if, in- 
deed, he had ever really entertained the idea of 
— self-slaughter, had actually set off on that globe- 
circling voyage which his cruel fair one had 
prescribed to him, and the rest of the Aylmer 
family were in mid-process of indignantly bund- 
ling out of the Dower House, to await inconve- 
niently on the shores of the Riviera the completion 
of their rebuilding house. 

"They are punishing themselves more than 
me," was Mrs. Tancred's sole comment upon the 



announcement that her quondam friends could 
no longer bear to lie under the obligation of a 
roof- tree to her. But Edward, conscious of 
the strong hold of habit upon his wife's mind, 
conscious also of her small power of making new 
friends, and of the tenacity with which she clung 
to ancient ties, recognized with pitying sorrow the 
cut which so painful and abrupt a severance of an 
old and pleasant relation gave her. 

Only one sentence from that final interview's 
stormy end which Miss Ransome's well planned 
and timed hysterics had saved her from witness- 
ing ever leaked out to the curious little public 
around. It had been addressed by Catherine 
Aylmer to Camilla, and must have been repeated 
in a species of triumph at its point and fitness, 
and have filtered through who knows what 
channel of confidential Barnacre or eavesdropping 
servants back to the ears of Bonnybell. 

"We can only hope that you will not have 
personal cause to regret your championship ! " 

"What a cat ! " was Miss Ransome's inward 
comment upon this innuendo. " I am glad that 
she does not know how little difficulty 1 have in 
keeping dear Edward at arm's length. But it 
is a word to the wise. I must be additionally 

By Christmas everything at Stillington was to 
all appearances as it had been. Life ran in its 
accustomed grooves, and not even the yearly 
hospitalities, largely understood by and still more 
largely carried out by Mrs. Tancred, as regarded 
the surrounding poor, were allowed to interfere 

with the resolutely resumed and ruthlessly ad- 
hered-to education of Bonnybell. Her eager 
offers to help in the dispensing of her hostess's 
gifts, and arranging of her entertainments, were 
received with a curt and modified acquiescence. 
But a cautiously slidden out suggestion that a 
reprieve from study would help her to throw 
herself with more heart and soul into the work of 
benevolence met with a decided negative. To it 
was due the one sigh of regret ever breathed by 
Miss Ransome for her broken engagement. " If 
I had married Toby, I need never again have 
opened a book ! It would have been impossible 
to know less than he did, and bad taste to know 

But, despite the considerable drawback of 
having to waste so much time on the improve- 
ment of her mind, the spirits of Miss Ransome 
rose, on the removal of the incubus laid upon 
them, to a height that often gave her grave un- 
easiness as to how to bridle and conceal them — 
spirits whose ebullition had to be worked off in 
low singings and childish skippings about her own 
room, before they could be tamed to the chastened 
sorrowfulness and veiled heartbreak which be- 
seemed their supposed condition. Even with 
the nicest care a spurt of young joyousness would 
go nigh to betray her, but, happily, in each case 
Edward had been the sole witness, and Miss Ran- 
some had never felt quite sure that Edward had 
found the evidences of her affliction personally con- 
vincing. How soon might she begin to be cheerful 
again .? Earnestly she wished that she had some 


one to consult on that head ; and sometimes the 
grotesque notion of taking Edward's opinion 
darted across her mind ; the hypothetical idea 
of what would happen supposing she were to 
put to him the question how soon — in case he 
were bereaved of Camilla — he would think it 
seemly to dress his countenance again in smiles ? 
But, after all, it would not be a parallel case, since 
Edward never suiFered from high spirits, and the 
experiment would probably blow the hospitable 
floor that carried her from under her feet. And, 
meanwhile, her inconvenient gaiety stood the shock 
not only of the rigorously pursued cultivation of 
her intelligence — for, after all, it was astonishing 
how little one need learn if one put one's mind to 
it — but the information conveyed to her, without 
any explanation of its reason, that the family's 
yearly habit of migrating to London after Christmas 
was this year to be intermitted. 

There was, therefore, nothing visibly ahead of 
her but the monotonous life she was at present 
pursuing. Of course, it was assommant as to dull- 
ness ; and the only wonder was that she felt its 
oppression so little. She supposed that she must 
be kept up by the little fillip of Edward's daily 
return ; and the — as daily — effort to present her- 
self convincingly to his mind as a very nice and 
thoroughly truthful young girl ! The enduring 
doubt as to what progress — if any — she made in 
this praiseworthy task kept her zest for it keen. 

As for Edward, if his estimate of his guest 
still held any elements of uncertainty, it was not 
for want of thought upon the subject. How 

could he help thinking of her ? Was not she 
the one scarlet thing that stood out saliently from 
the iron-grey background of his life ? How could 
he help, when on his daily downward journey 
from Paddington his evening paper was finished, 
and even whilst "Telegrams " and "Stop Press " 
were writing themselves on his retina — how could 
he help the ever-repeated question asking itself, 
" Has she got into any fresh mischief to-day ? 
If she has, how can I hinder her telling me lies 
about it ? Has she any more glimmer of a sense 
of the existence of such things as truth and 
honour than when she came to us ? " 

For the first week or two after the angry 
flitting of the Aylmer family had been accom- 
plished, Mr. Tancred had anxiously watched his 
wife, partly in an intensifying of the compassion 
he always felt for her, partly in a fear that the 
irritation of nerves caused by the break with the 
inmates of the Dower House might wreak itself 
upon Bonnybell, instead of — as he devoutly hoped 
it might. In pursuance of a habit of fifteen years — 
upon himself. But he found with relief that his 
fears on this head were groundless. Camilla, it 
is true, continued to snub her pupil with un- 
stinted liberality, and ruthlessly pruned away the 
little fripperies with which Miss Ransome tried 
cautiously to qualify the morose black of her 
mourning garb ; but a smile forced its way 
oftener than she was aware into her hard eyes 
when the girl entered the room ; and she never 
failed — whatever her effort to the contrary — to 
break into that laugh of hers, so rare, hitherto, 


as to be almost terrifying, over Bonnybell's 
games and idiocies with Jock. 

But to do Miss Ransome justice, her worst 
enemy could not deny that at this period of her 
history she was a very agreeable inmate. The 
extreme unpleasantness of her late experience, the 
fright It had caused her, and the entire absence 
of an opportunity for a temptation to new errors, 
combined to make her " conduct as the noon- 
day clear." It is not the highest qualities which 
make men or women facile h vivre ! The tender 
conscience, the high ideal, the strong affections, 
when brought into friction with the wrongnesses, 
the basenesses, the coldnesses of everyday life, 
produce rubs to the temper which are avoided by 
the cool heart, which does not care enough for 
anything to ache ; the pliant temper, which gives 
In because nothing matters much ; the absence 
of aspiration, which acquiesces pleasantly In the 

Bonnybell was, as her housemates more and 
more realized, a shining instance of the value 
of small virtues In daily intercourse. She was 
immovably good-tempered, Invariably civil, always 
on the look-out for opportunities for paying little 
attentions, light-hearted even beneath the pressure 
of the severe affliction under which she was at 
present labouring, yet subdued In her mirth as 
in her graceful movements. Even her efforts to 
avoid her studies were made with the most 
shrinking delicacy, and their frustration met 
with the quickest, sweetest acquiescence ; and 
lastly, her skill in applying antiseptic to Jock's 


wounds when the latter's lifelong feud with the 
second coachman's yellow Irish terrier culminated 
in a battle, which, like Waterloo, " with Cannae's 
carnage vied," was beyond praise. Now and again, 
indeed, but more and more rarely in Camilla's 
presence, some all too intimate trait relating to 
the habits and haunts of a class never to be 
recognized as existing by Mrs. Tancred's school — 
some startling theory, fact, or opinion, concerning 
population or the relations of the sexes, would 
slip out. But these were but tiny blemishes 
upon the else spotless white of her life and 

So January passed, questionably enlivened by 
a few stiff shooting-parties, during which the 
modestly proffered attentions of Miss Ransome 
to the least attractive among the guests were 
patent to all eyes, and reaped an immediate 
harvest of approbation ; while her one or two 
unlucky lapses from jeune-fille-ism in conversation 
did not transpire till long afterwards. 

January was drawing to its close, when to 
the uneventful household at Stillington the post 
brought one morning a piece of news which was 
received and commented upon according to their 
different characters by the three persons who 
learnt it. The news in question was communi- 
cated by Mrs. Glanville, and announced the fact 
that, by the perfectly unexpected accidental death 
of the head of his family, an unmarried cousin 
less than half his age, her husband had come into 
possession of a barony and a rent roll of thirty 
thousand a year. 


"What a nuisance for the poor chap ! " was 
Edward's heartfelt exclamation. 

Camilla said, dryly, that she hoped the com- 
mand of so much money — since, of course, given 
the weakness of Tom's character, the whole dis- 
position of it would lie with her — might not lead 
Felicity into chimerical schemes, like her Guild 
of St. Swithin, the members of which were to 
devote half of every wet day to intercession for 
their erring sisters in society. 

Bonnybell's contribution, though made half 
under her breath, was unfortunately audible — 

" They really ought to try to manage to set 
up an heir now ! " 

She was a little off her guard, suddenly 
dazzled by the brilliant accession of consequence 
and fortune that had come to her former — nay, 
as she had reason to know — her present admirer, 
and wondering whether or not she had been wise 
in so firmly, though sweetly and sadly, refusing 
the surreptitious correspondence that poor silly 
old Tom had pressed upon her. Her ruminations 
were broken in upon by a short — 

" You have a happy knack of giving an 
indelicate turn to what you say," Camilla said 
severely ; " and if you have no more valuable 
contribution to the subject to make, I think you 
would do well to be silent." 

Bonnybell bowed her head, and one shining 
tear dropped in her lap. It was due less to the 
rebuke than to an inward reflection of what 
luck some people had, and how it was thrown 
away upon them. Even better than Felicity she 


could have turned old Tom round her finger ; 
but to what a different tune would she have set 
his gyrations ! 

The subject was not afterwards much discussed 
in the little circle, nor did it at first appear to 
have much bearing on the three lives of which 
that restricted circle was composed. 

A wily hint from Miss Ransome as to the 
propriety of her paying a visit of congratulation 
to the late Mrs. Glanville, now Lady Bletchley, 
in acknowledgment of former hospitalities, was 
not taken up. It might so easily have been 
combined with one of those trips to London 
which since Christmas had been of bi-weekly 
occurrence. They were undertaken under the 
strict surveillance of Camilla's maid, and had for 
object the receiving of lessons from masters, in 
addition to the private teaching at home. As 
pleasures they were, in Bonnybell's opinion, better 
than nothing, but what a mockery in comparison 
of what they might have been ! 

Generally Edward returned by the same train, 
but as he invariably travelled in a smoking-carriage, 
and drove himself home in a dog-cart, her oppor- 
tunities for those tete-a-tete talks with him, for 
which her zest was daily growing, were confined 
to a very few minutes' pacing of the Paddington 
platform together. There was the Sunday walk, 
indeed, which had become a habit, and to which 
she looked forward with an eagerness which she 
was obliged generally to explain away to herself. 
" There is not really the slightest risk ; he has 
himself well in hand ; and as for me, the only 


reason why I am fond of him is that he is not 
like a man — at least, not like the bestial men I 
have known," 

Their course was almost always about the 
park, and through the whims and variations of 
an English winter Bonnybell, had her senses ever 
been much open to the sweet surprises of Nature, 
might have learnt how much beauty even January 
holds in her hard lap ; what wild fantasies of 
ice-flowers on oak and beech, when sudden frost 
had surprised their wet boughs ; what pensive 
dignity of mist-enfolded coppice and spinney ! 
She was generally much too busy talking to be 
aware of any difference in the effects presented to 
her eyes. One is happily not expected to admire 
in winter, and so as the north wind did not 
succeed in piercing the astrachan fur under her 
chin, nor the crisp grass wet too much the thick 
boots which Camilla compelled her to wear, she 
asked no more of the outside world of Stillington. 

At first Edward had tried to open her per- 
ceptions to the phenomena around her, attributing 
her obtuseness to the defectiveness of her training ; 
since the eye, strangely enough, has to be told 
what to see, and the ear what to hear, quite as 
much as the brain what to admit and assimilate. 
But a short time sufficed to show him the use- 
lessness of the attempt. Miss Ransome was, and 
was likely to remain. Nature-deaf and Nature- 
blind ! There was something even pathetic, or 
so it seemed to her companion, in her efforts 
to do what was expected of her in the way of 
appreciation ; and though among what seemed to 


her the shivery drearinesses of the winter snow it 
was difficult to guess what one was expected to 
admire, yet her quick tact prevented her from 
falling into any very gross error. She even, 
during a spell of hard weather, got up quite a 
successful show of interest in tracking on the 
snow the footsteps of some little animal which 
puzzled Edward ; and though her suggestion 
that perhaps it was a hup garou did not help 
him much, none the less was he grateful for 
the good fellowship shown by her aid in the 

At first, by a tacit united agreement, they had 
avoided the Dower House, but one day, because 
it lay in the direction preferred by Jock, they 
found themselves half-accidentally in its neigh- 
bourhood. It was on one of the two showery 
Sundays that they found themselves looking up 
at its gables and dormer-windows from the closed 
gates. The dead eyeless look of a house whence 
the dwellers have departed was accentuated by 
the cold layer of white that hid the beauty of 
the old grey slates of its high-pitched roof, and 
by the many humps that indicated the whereabouts 
of its garden-beds. A small but piercing air 
blew in their faces, chill as the liking of the 
self-ejected friends, that had been wont to give 
so warm a welcome to one of the two persons 
who peered silently through the iron-work of 
the fine old gates. 

"Let us come away," Bonnybell said softly. 
" This must make you feel bad." 

" And you ? " 


He turned and looked full at her, which he 
did not often do, and she felt or imagined a 
glint of irony in his eye. It was not a happy 
moment, perhaps, for the bringing up of the fable 
of her affliction. The snow had had the ex- 
hilarating effect it mostly has upon dogs, and had 
made Jock forget his years, and sent him plung- 
ing through little drifts and scattering the frozen 
powder flying about his rejuvenated heels. 

Bonnybell had no years to speak of to for- 
get, and she had plunged and frolicked too ; 
and now stood betrayingly rosy and radiant, sur- 
veying the casket of her lost treasure. Something 
in the tone as well as the eyes of her companion 
in putting his apparently sympathetic question, 
sobered her at once. 

" You think that I ought not to be so cheer- 
ful ? " she asked in a troubled tone. 

" I am very glad that you should be." 

The answer was not quite up to Edward's 
usual standard of amiability ; nor could Bonnybell 
divine that it was irritation with himself at the 
discovery of how litde he really missed the 
Catherine of past Sundays that gave a touch of 
ill-nature to his response. She took the faint 
snub, as she always took all snubs, in unresenting 
silence ; but when they had turned away from the 
house, and were walking homewards, she meekly 
took up her own defence. 

" Do not you think that one is right, for the 
sake of the people one lives with, not to show too 
plainly when one is unhappy ? " 

" Undoubtedly." 


" And perhaps, in a way, it is not as great a 
blow to me as it might have been to some one 
else, because I have no temperament." She made 
this singular confidence quite glibly and without 
any consciousness of its being unusual. But, 
used as he now was to her, it startled Edward 
so much that she was able to add thoughtfully, 
" Toby has a good deal." 

The shyness resulting from the reception of 
this obliging revelation was on Mr. Tancred's 
side, and it kept him dumb. 

" The kind of love I should like to inspire," 
continued Miss Ransome, forgetting to kick the 
snow as she had been doing with childish pleasure, 
" is the nice quiet sort that would look after me, 
and keep disagreeable things and people away from 
me, and never expect anything beyond ; but " — 
with pensive regret, yet not the slightest hesitation 
— " that is just the kind I never get ; what I am 
offered is always the other — the horrid sort." 

The winter dusk, though nearly due, was, 
owing to the snow-shine, a little deferred ; and 
it would have been impossible for any one looking 
at him not to see that Mr. Tancred was growing 
very much out of countenance. He wished he 
could stop her, but nothing came to him in time 
to arrest the still more embarrassing revelation that 

" I am going to tell you something that will 
make you laugh," she said in a tone of frank 
and gently mirthful confidence. " Do you know 
that when first I knew you, I thought that, of 
course, you would be like all the rest ! I was 


afraid to he left alone in the room with you I " She 
ended with a glance at him of expectant enjoy- 
ment of his enjoyment of the joke. 

Exhilaration was not quite the leading char- 
acteristic of his half-strangled answer. 

" May I ask how soon you were undeceived.''" 


There was nothing unusual in Camilla's spending 
a day of unexplained occupation in London. It 
therefore excited no surprise when, on a certain 
Saturday at the end of the first week in February, 
she departed on one of her silent excursions. It 
could not have had for object shopping, an occu- 
pation for which Mrs. Tancred cherished a dislike 
as vigorous as were most of her feelings and 
opinions. If her companions gave a thought to 
the subject, it was to decide that her errand must 
be one of the many noiseless good deeds which 
she hid as if they were crimes. The trumpet 
blown before actions, so inspiriting a sound in 
Felicity's ears, was harshest discord in her sister- 

Camilla returned by dinner-time, but did not 
during or after that repast give any of the slight 
indications which sometimes escaped her as to the 
where or the what of the day's work. She was 
rather, though not very noticeably, more silent 
than usual. Not till after luncheon on Sunday 
did any perceptible change in her habits appear. 

To Edward, dreamily pufiing in the smoking- 
room, where Bonnybell, despite all her delicate 



hints, had never been invited to join him, his wife 
appeared. It was the hour when she was wont to 
retire to her rehgious exercises ; and the inexor- 
able rigidity with which, in the face of any and 
every obstacle, she adhered to the rule caused 
a look of surprise to dawn on her husband's face 
as he took his cigarette out of his mouth, and 
rose courteously, as he always did, to receive her. 

" You are surprised, and I dare say not par- 
ticularly pleased to see me ? " she said, with her 
usual crude directness. 

" Why that fleer ? " he asked kindly and play- 

" Why indeed ? " she answered. " It is not 
the spirit in which I wish to enter upon a subject 
that has grave bearings on both our lives." 

Her tone made him a little uneasy, though 
not so much so as if she had been any one else, 
since he knew her habit of viewing all life — even 
its slightnesses — from a serious standpoint. 

" Whatever it is, let us at least face it under as 
comfortable conditions as we can," he answered 
with a resigned smile, wheeling the austerest 
of his armchairs, and the one therefore best suited 
to her liking, nearer the fire for her. 

He was surprised at not receiving a rebuke 
for the luxuriousness and self-indulgence of the 
sentiment, but she only assented mildly — 

" Yes, if you do not mind, I will sit down, as 
what I have to say must take a certain amount of 

There was a pause. Camilla had laid aside her 
spectacles — a sign of good augury in her husband's 


experience for her amiability ; and now sat with 
her gaze abstractedly fixed on the old sporting and 
coaching coloured prints, which the eyes of her 
ugly solemn childhood had contemplated. He 
waited with an air of patient deference. Once, 
long ago, an ill-natured remark had reached his 
ears to the effect that his manner to his wife was 
charmingly filial, and though the jeer had cut 
him to the quick, he had made no consequent 
change in it. 

In a few minutes Camilla had apparently col- 
lected and marshalled her ideas, and began to 
speak. The opening took him by surprise. 

" I do not think that I have ever been open 
to the charge of being a malade imaginaire." 

There was a startled touch in his answer. 
" I think you have often been a bien portante 
imaginaire, and overworked yourself grossly in 

" I have not felt in quite my usual health for 
the last three months. At first I attached no 
importance to the fact, recognizing that at fifty-one 
cannot expect to have the vigour of twenty-five." 
The appearance in conversation of the grand 
climacteric was always, as they both knew, a bug- 
bear to Edward ; but for once he recognized that 
there was no intention of galling him in its intro- 
duction. " But of late " — she paused, as if to 
choose the words best fitted for a weighty com- 
munication ; then went on steadily — " I have had 
reason to suspect that something further must be 
wrong with me than the failure of power attendant 
upon the approach of age." 


At another moment he would have reproached 
ler with a phrasing that might have better befitted 
[ler had twenty more years been added to the 
detestable fifty, which were always being thrown 
n his teeth, but now a painful suspense as to 
ivhat was coming kept him dumb. 

" Such being the case, I thought it wise to 
:onsult a specialist upon cases such as I concluded 
nine to be. I therefore made an appointment 

mth Dr. , which I went up to London 

p-esterday to keep." 

"And never told me a word about it ! " he 
3roke in, with an almost angry upbraiding in his 

" Why should I ? " she answered, looking at 
him with a stoical kindness. " Have you the 
Dower of life and death in your hands ? I knew " 
— an expression of resolute pride settling on and 
dignifying her rugged face — " that whatever he 
:old me, I should be well able to bear it" 

« What did he tell you ? " 

The question shot out with an abruptness 
nost unlike Edward's doubtful and suggestive 
methods, but the tidings sprung upon him had 
taken him by the throat. 

" He could give no decided opinion ; there 
Bras mischief undoubtedly — yes, but whether 
malignant or benignant" (a scornful accent on the 
last word) — "you know the patter of medical 
phraseology ! — it was impossible, at the present 
stage of the disease, to decide. I am to visit him 
1 second time at the end of two months, when he 
may perhaps be better able to judge, though even 


hen my fate may be still uncertain. The malady 
aay successfully attack life, it may be compara- 
ively harmless ; it may be arrested, it may not ; 
ts progress may be slow, may be fast. There, 
'■ou know as much as I do 1" 

Looking in his face, she could not think 
hat it was indifference which kept him still mute 
,t the end of her cool and lucid statement. 

"I have never been much afraid to die," 
Camilla went on presently, in a voice absolutely 
lestitute of all excitement, but with a sort of 
everence in it. " Death or life ! If I do not 
leceive myself, I am ready to face the one, I 
,m willing to face the other." (Across the re- 
norseful smart in the husband's heart there 
lashed the painful doubt as to which alternative 
he willingness applied to.) " The point of the 
rial lies to me in the uncertainty. I have always 
)een too fond of certainties ; that is, doubtless " — 
vith an acquiescent awe in her tone — "why this 
)articular form of ordeal has been sent me." 

Edward had never been much a master of 
v^ords, and out of the tumult of ruefial pain and 
lazing surprise which now filled his heart and 
irain, none came to his aid. He could only 
atch the lean hand nearest him as it hung over 
he arm of its owner's chair and press the old- 
ashioned rings into the spare flesh in an access 
if remorseful sympathy. 

She let her fingers lie in his clasp for a 
loment, then quickly withdrew them. 

"You must not misunderstand me — must 
lot jump to the conclusion that there is any 


:ertainty to go upon ; there are not yet sufficient 
lata to build upon either way." 

There was none of the too-frequent irony and 
sarcasm in her tone, and yet he realized with a 
lorrible pang that she was warning him not 
:o be too hopeful of — not to count too con- 
idently upon — a speedy release. 

"You have been suffering pain and misery 
ill this time, and I have never guessed it ! 
Zould brutish stupidity go further ? " he ejacu- 
ated, finding speech at last, though of a choked 

"No," she answered, her rigid truthfulness 
n revolt against the exaggeration of his self- 
iccusation. "You have no cause to blame your- 
self; there has been nothing noticeably different 
n me. There need not be, as far as I can 
gather " — she paused a moment — " for some little 
while yet ; and T have suffered no pain to speak 
Df. If pain comes, I am under no apprehension 
af not being well able to endure it." 

The steady confidence of Mrs. Tancred's tone 
was not needed to assure one who had lived 
beside her for fifteen years of her endowments in 
the way of dogged endurance. But the certainty 
that she would face the reality of death with the 
same high courage as she had faced the mockery 
af life did not go far to allay the stings and bites 
af his remorse. While she had been quietly 
bracing herself to meet the grip of a mortal 
disease, he had been mooning unobservantly along 
beside her, full of vapourish half-guilty dreams 
and sickly discontents. 


Presently Camilla spoke again. " I do not 
hink that I should have mentioned the subject 
o you yet awhile — not until I had something 
nore definite to tell, if" — a very slight pause 
his time — " I had not made up ray mind, after 
uU consideration given to the subject during 
he hours of last night, that, in view of the 
)ossibilities ahead of me — of us, it would be 
.dvisable to make some changes — one change, at 
east — in the arrangement of my — of our lives." 

No sound broke the reverence of his listening 
ilence, but he felt as if there were a ton's weight 
m the top of his head. 

" If this is the beginning of the end — if, 
whether by inches or by some quicker action of 
he malady, I am to die, I think it would be 
)etter that Bonnybell should leave us." 

Edward bent his head in acquiescence. He 
lad not consciously suspected what his wife was 
eading up to, yet when the climax came he 
elt that he had known all along that it was 
oming. A very sensible addition to the tumul- 
uous wretchedness of his feelings lay in the fact 
hat he could not disguise from himself that it 
ame as a blow. 

" I quite understand," he answered. " It is 
)erfectly natural that if you have to lead an 
nvalid life, you should not wish to have a 
tranger living in your house." 

" You quite misunderstand me," she retorted, 
vith a good infusion of the wonted sharpness in 
ler tone. " Bonnybell is no longer a stranger to 
:ither you or me, and it is a farce to pretend that 



he is ; and I have not the least intention of 
eading an invalid life. I hope to do a good deal 
)f work yet, to go on working, if possible, nearly 
o the end." 

He had heartily hailed the surliness of her 
roice, as something normal and healthy, but he 
eft her free from interruption to explain the idea 
vhich he had failed to comprehend. It was a 
ninute or two before she did so. 

" I think," she said, the pettishness of eye 
Lnd tone giving place to a deep solemnity, " that 
f these are to be the final months of my life, 
' ought to try and keep them as free as possible 
"rom unnecessary temptations to irritability and 
inger ; from profitless friction to a temper which 
:hrough all these years I have failed — as you 
tnow, to your cost — to bring under proper 

Courteous as he was by nature and training, 
t did not occur to Edward to utter a polite 
;ontradiction of a statement whose truth was so 
gainfully well known to them both. He only 
Tiade a slight gesture that might mean assent. 

" My motive, as I have stated it, sounds 
wholly selfish ; but it is not so " — her voice sank 
slightly — "for you, too, it is better that she 
should go." 

At that he turned white. " Of what do you 
suspect me ? " 

" Of what do I suspect you ? " she repeated, 
ooking at him with a remorseful kindness. " Of 
lothing worse than of wishing to put a litde 
;olour into the life I have made so grey for you." 


There was none of the satiric bitterness with 
vhich she often alluded to the failure in the 
natter of happiness of their joint life voyage, 
)nly pitying pain ; and only pitying pain, in full 
neasure, rang in the remonstrance of his reply. 

"Do not you think that you have made it 
jreyer by always taking for granted that it must 
)e grey r 

She assented almost gently. " It is possible, 
iince the great initial mistake, I have gone from 
)ne error of judgment to another, and I am not 
ure" — with an accent of humiliation — "that 
hough I did it for the best, though I thought I 
aw the path of duty plain before me, that the 
ast has not been the gravest of all," 

He did not ask her what that last and crown- 
ng lapse from wisdom had been. He made 
leither protest nor asseveration, and for a minute 
>r two they sat gravely looking at the ashes in 
he grate, as if they had been those of her long- 
ieparted and his wasted youth. He had taken 
ler hand again, and she suffered him to hold it 
onger this time. But even while it lay in its 
old dryness in his, even while his heart seemed 
00 brimful of ruth, of horrified sorrow and 
tunned surprise, to have room for any other 
ienizens, there stole into it the insidious thought, 
■ If Bonnybell is to be turned out, what will 
lecome of her ? " 


' The sun has gone in. He was shining quite 
jrightly half an hour ago," Bonnybell said with a 
slight but meaning glance at the clock, and an 
iccent of very gentle reproach. 

The time for setting out on the weekly 
Sunday walk had been overpassed by forty 
ninutes, and Miss Ransome was found, when at 
ast joined by her tardy companion, fidgeting up 
ind down the hall, with a look of upbraiding 
Dunctuality. Invariably hitherto it had been she 
that had kept him waiting, yet the strange thing 
ivas that even now he offered her no apology. 
He was too busy thinking what an unconscious 
iptitude there was in her words, " The sun has 
Tone in." 

Edward would have much preferred to have 
intermitted the Sunday habit, which had grown 
3o sweet, and which must shortly be abandoned 
for ever. It seemed an impossible feat in 
mental gymnastics to twist and wrench his 
thoughts away from the horrible coil of shocked 
pain and self-reproach which the last half-hour had 
ivound round them, and turn them and his ears 
to the litde trifling or doubtful topics on which 



alone Bonnybeli's tongue frisked along with such 
gay glibness. He had come into the hall with 
the intention of asking her to let him off, of 
framing some excuse which would give him free- 
dom to face the tidings of a hideous probability 
in the solitude which could alone steel him to 
meet it. But when he saw the girl his intention 
melted away. There was such obvious relief 
and pleasure in her litde bright face, clearly 
following upon annoyance and puzzled misgiving, 
that he saw that his defection would cause her 
real disappointment — a disappointment, too, for 
which he could give her no reason. 

It was always difficult to Edward to run 
counter to any one's wishes ; and, after all, what 
hurry was there for him to realize his wretched- 
ness? He would, in Camilla's showing, have 
weeks and months to do it in. Camilla — his 
poor, valiant, smitten Camilla ! 

" You need not look so miserable about it," 
came a pretty little reassured voice in his ear ; 
" it was only a passing cloud. He will be out 
again by the time we reach the bridge, and the 
days are so much longer now ; we need not hurry 

" Only a passing thud ! " Into how deep an 
irony the aptitude of her former sentence had 
turned ! 

They walked almost in silence till the copse 
beyond the wooden bridge into the park was 
reached. There they paused to mark the progress 
made since last Sunday by the still small low 
snowdrops beginning to pierce the rain-softened 


earth. Such advance in the knowledge and 
appreciation of Nature had been made by Miss 
Ransome that she had actually perceived them 
without their being pointed out to her. 

" How pretty they are ! " she cried with 
perhaps rather more enthusiasm than the humble 
blossoms really inspired in her. " I think their 
French name is prettier still — perce-neige. They 
always remind me of my old French nurse, 
Babette ; she used to put them on her daughter's 
grave in Mont Martre. The poor girl had been 
unlucky, had a baby and died of it ; and Claire 
bought her a grave en ■perpkuite. Claire was very 
kind in those ways." 

The effort to induce Miss Ransome to drop 
the use of her mother's Christian name in 
their tite-a-tetes had long been pusillanimously 
abandoned by Edward, and he now listened with 
a dull reflection how harmoniously immoral the 
surroundings of poor Bonnybell's infancy and 
childhood had been, not even her nurse's daughter 
having been able to refrain from having an 
illegitimate baby. 

"I never could have believed that I could 
have grown to love the country so dearly," 
pursued Bonnybell, inwardly wondering at the 
unaccountably occupied air of Edward, and deter- 
mining to be even more endearingly rural than 

" And yet you would rather be in London, 
wouldn't you ? " 

It was the first question he had put to her 
since their walk began, and she smiled inwardly 


at its superfluousness. Of course she had rather 
be In London. Who but a fool wouldn't ? London 
or Paris ! Were there any other places where 
a sane person who was not fifty, and had not a 
young husband whom she wanted to keep an eye 
upon, could wish to live ? The only fear was lest 
her answer should let pierce through too much 
of the internal radiance kindled by the suggestion. 

"Are we going up, after all? Has Mrs.. 
Tancred changed her plans ? " 

Edward's answer lagged. He had not meant 
to tell his companion of the imminent change in 
their lives, yet now he felt that he was going 
to do so. 

" Why should it be ' we ' .'' " he asked pre- 
sently, with an exaggeration of his suggestive and 
querying manner. " Would not it do as well if 
you were going up .? " 

Her face told him that it would not. Half 
the light of glad expectation went out of it, and 
he was guiltily aware of the first sensation of 
pleasure that had touched him since Camilla's 

" Are you only teasing me," she asked, with a 
not artificial tremolo in her voice, "or do you 
really mean that I am to be sent away, after all ? 
I — I — hoped that I had not done anything fresh 

Her fallen countenance, the trembling diffi- 
dence of her accents, the cloud that, settling on 
her face, contrasted with the sunbeam which had 
shot through the leafless twigs to dance there, 
made him heartily repent of the undertaking 


on which he had embarked. Why could not he 
have left it to Camilla ? Then a knife of self- 
reproach turned in the fresh wound in his heart. 
Had not he always left everything disagreeable to 
Camilla ? Was not it time — the time of which 
probably so little would be left to him — to take 
some share of the burden he had for fifteen years 
been shifting on to those enduring shoulders ? 

" Done anything fresh ! " he repeated, trying to 
give an accent of lightness to the repetition of her 
fear. " Nothing beyond being more delightfully 
kind and helpful and spoiling to us with every 
week you have given us." (Miss Ransome's brow 
did not clear. Edward was not in the habit of 
complimenting her, and instinct told her that the 
enumeration of her merits had something ominous 
in it. He was leaning against a tree-trunk, and 
she noticed that there was a false nonchalance in 
the way in which he was stirring the dead leaves 
with his stick, and that he did not look at her, as 
he added a finishing clause to his civilities.) " But 
we cannot be so selfish as to hope to keep you 
always to ourselves ! " 

It was such a bolt out of the blue, that no 
wonder if a sort of darkness settled on Bonny- 
bell's vision. " I am bound to go to the dogs if 
they kick me out, as they are going to do," she 
said to herself crudely, "and I shall have no 
more Sunday walks," The collocation of two 
future events of such unequal consequence had 
something ludicrous in it, but for the moment 
the misfortunes prophesied counted to her as 
about equal. 


" It has been wonderfully good of you to put 
up with me so long," she said after a pause ; and 
even in this crisis of feeling she could not help 
thinking how infinitely better the natural tremble 
in her voice was than any of the many artificial 
ones she had executed. Its success was, as she at 
once felt, proportionate to its superiority. Edward 
forgot himself just a little. 

" Put up with," he repeated, in a key of low 
emphasis — "put up with sunshine and wonderful 
temper and tact ! Has it been so great a credit 
to us to put up with these ? " 

Her quick ear caught the plural pronoun, and 
set her wondering whether Mr. Tancred was 
joining his old wife with him only for the sake of 
euphony ? or, if her opinion of the temper and 
tact alluded to, and which she had put to the test 
so very much more severely than he had ever 
done, was as high as his, why this imminent 
expulsion ? 

His voice, recovered and recontrolled, broke 
upon her anxious speculation. 

" But because you have been infinitely good 
and forbearing to a cranky old couple is no reason 
why they should stand in your light ! " 

She could not even compass another tremble 
now, it would have broken into a sob, and it was 
too soon, as the tact he had praised taught her, to 
use that ultimate weapon. But something of the 
blank cold wonder that was icing her heart sat in 
her desolate orphan eyes as they looked in meek 
expectancy of her doom at him who had taken 
upon himself to pronounce it. 


" I am making a stupid bungle," he said, 
averting his own eyes. If he did not fix them on 
some other object, he should have to close them, 
so unendurable to him was the sight of her little 
darkened face, unalterably sweet in its expectation 
of an imminent blow. " I am going on the sup- 
position that you know what I am talking about, 
which of course you cannot do. Camilla has not 
yet had an opportunity of telling you, but this 
morning she received an invitation for you which 
she does not think it fair to you to refuse." 

No assenting comment. 

" Camilla heard this morning from my sister 
Felicity, begging us to spare you to her. It 
seems that you made yourself so helpful and 
indispensable when you stayed with her last 
autumn that she has missed you grievously ever 
since. She wrote so urgendy — Felicity is one of 
those people who always manage to get what they 
want — that my wife did not think it right to 
refuse her, more especially as she thought it 
would be doing you a good turn — giving you 
a pleasant change." 

His voice died away into an indistinct 
murmur. Every word uttered by him had been 
strict truth — to offer Untruth to Bonnybell 
would have been, as has been already observed, 
sending coals to Newcasde. Yet in his .own ears 
his statement sounded like a bad, bald lie. 

Of its K«-veracity not the slightest doubt tra- 
versed the girl's mind. "What a much better 
story I could have made up," she said to herself, 
with an artist's pity for a croilte. Across the 


unaffected quiver of her lips a slight sigh of relief 
stole. " There's not a word of truth in it ! As 
long as old Tom was alive, Felicity would never 
have asked me to stay with her again ; but they 
are somehow going to force her to take me." 

Miss Ransome's philosophy here began to 
return to her aid. " It is better than the streets, 
anyhow, and five minutes ago I did not see any 
other oudet. But I certainly am sorrier to leave 
Edward than a wretched little adventuress like 
me ought ever to let herself be about anything." 

These reflections did not lend themselves to 
utterance, and after all, as he had evidently made 
no effort to run counter to Camilla's fiat for her 
dismissal, it was as well to make him feel as un- 
comfortable as an attitude of submissive but 
heartbroken silence could render him. Bonny- 
bell's heart was not of those that break, but there 
was quite enough of true stuff in the mixed woof 
of real and counterfeit which went to make up 
her attitude of sacrificial lamb bound to the altar- 
horns, to make it inimitably touching. 

"The only wonder is that you should have 
kept me so long," she murmured at last, with the 
most submissive figurative kissing of the hand 
that smote her, yet, in the turmoil of her spirits, 
forgetting to feign any belief in the supposed 
fiction of Felicity's summons. "You will laugh 
at me, but I had begun to hope that I was be- 
coming a little useful to Mrs. Tancred, that 
she was growing to be just a very little fond 
of me." 

Her slight, desolate smile at the fatuity of 


having hoped to reap a small crop of that affec- 
tion which to most girls of her age was a banal 
matter of course, reduced her hearer to a state of 
wretchedness far deeper than her mild aspiration 
after vengeance had wished. 

" Laugh at you !" he said in a choked voice. 
"Laugh at you for believing what falls so far 
short of the real truth ! You have been like a 
most kind and dear daughter to my wife — to us 

This last clause, with its evident eiFort to set 
the rickety situation on four strong straight legs, 
provoked so acute a mirth in Bonnybell's spirit, 
sore as it was, that she had much ado to disguise 
it. " The poor dear is so determined to be my 
' papa,' and he looks and feels so unlike it ! " 
she said to herself. She drew a long, patient 

" Thank you for saying so ! I am glad that 
I am not being sent away in disgrace." 

He caught up the phrase with an intonation 
of acute distress. 

" In disgrace ? How can you misunderstand 
me so lamentably as to suggest such an idea ? " 
Then, ruth and pity carrying him, like runaway 
horses, quite beyond the limits of his self-imposed 
commission, " Why, I cannot think how my wife 
will get on without you." 

At that a tiny smile stole to the drooped corners 
of her sad mouth. " He has always suspected me 
of telling lies, but my imagination has never run 
to such a big one as his ! " Aloud she said, while 
the least tinge of malice, which she was unable 


to get rid of, coloured the plaintive innocence of 
her speech — 

" It is you, then, who have come to the end 
of your patience ! you who, like Tom — Lord 
Bletchley, I mean — have put down your foot ! " 

At the pseudo-naivetd of this reproach Mr. 
Tancred's pale face grew suddenly suiFused 
with a hot flush, but he looked his interlocutor 
full in the eyes as he answered with a steady 
dryness — 

" I do not think there is any analogy between 
the cases." 

The response showed her that he was as 
perfectly aware as she herself of the reason of 
her ejectment from the Glanville household ; and 
also that he repudiated any kinship with Tom's 
amorous weakness. The — in her experience — 
unexampled severity of his tone, coupled with 
the consciousness of having made a deplorably 
false step, combined to overset her. " It is time 
to begin to cry," she said to herself, yielding by 
policy to what was a very real breakdown of self- 
control, and at once the obedient tears welled into 
and blurred the meek lustre of her eyes. 

" It is hard that when we are going to part 
so soon we should keep misunderstanding each 
other ! " she murmured, with just enough and not 
too much of a sob. " I never dreamed that you 
would think that I could imply that there was 
any likeness between such a person as poor Lord 
Bletchley and — you ! " 

The little subtle pause before the personal 
pronoun somehow gave a sense of so enormous 


a superiority in the person to whom it referred 
to his unlucky brother-in-law, that Edward felt 
his temporary anger melting back into the 
original mass of misery from which it had 
sprung. How could she tell what a hornet's 
sting her perhaps unintended insinuation had 
gained from that news of Camilla's, of which she 
could know nothing ? How could she tell that 
her flippant shaft had struck a heart and con- 
science already writhing with remorse ? In word 
and deed Edward had been absolutely faithful 
to his wife. But how about thought ? Despite 
his Pharisaical attitude, was he in reality so very 
much Tom's superior ? 

" You have misunderstood me too," he said, 
his voice resuming its courteous gentleness. 
" No doubt through my fault — my muddled way 
of explaining a plan which we thought would be 
for your happiness — give you pleasure ! " 

The plural pronoun dried her tears, which had 
done their mollifying work, and were no longer 
either needed or easy. 

" I shall be very glad to see the Bletchleys 
again," she said, with a resigned acquiescence ; 
and unostentatiously passing a small fine hand- 
kerchief over her eyes and cheeks. " It is very 
good of them — oi anybody — to take me in." 

The forlorn orphan note in her voice was the 
one he could least bear. Already he was telling 
himself that he had been too harsh to her, to this 
friendless fragility, shortly to be driven so reluc- 
tantly — despite her meek consent, there could be 
no doubt about the reluctance — from his door. 


His door ! No, had it been his, she would never 
have been driven from it ! 

Then the pendulum swung back again ; the 
image of Camilla, with her future of probable 
agony and lingering death, resumed its supre- 
macy in his mind, and in shocked return to his 
allegiance he spoke with a cool matter-of-fact 

" You will find only Felicity at first. Tom is 
gone to Scotland for fishing. You know he is 
always glad of an excuse to get out of London." 

Had Mr. Tancred been able to see under the 
large white lids that drooped over Miss Ran- 
some's eyes, he would have noticed in those 
eyes a glitter that would have surprised him. 
" I thought so," was her inward comment. 
" Old Felicity has her head too well screwed 
on to ask me there when Tom is at home." 
Aloud she said humbly — 

" I must try to be a little useful to her." 

Bonnybell's words carried a very delicately 
sad implication that her efforts to make herself 
acceptable in her present surroundings had been 
so unsuccessful as to prevent any sanguine hope 
of their flourishing better in another soil. Her 
inward ruminations proceeded a step farther on 
the path they had begun to tread. " Tom cannot 
fish for ever ; and then ? " Yet it was not the 
vista of future expulsions unfolding before her 
mental eyes that made her say to herself, " He 
must feel it too, though he tries to carry it off." 

There was a silence, not the dull indoor 
silence broken only by a buzzing house-fly or 


a falling cinder, but the outdoor February silence 
invaded by the beginning melodies of new-wedded 

" I am afraid that I shall never now learn to 
distinguish the notes of the birds from each other, 
as you had promised to teach me to do," Bonny- 
bell said presently, with an exquisite modulation 
of chastened regret. 

Her hearer had on other Sundays perfectly 
taken the measure of her ornithological curiosity, 
and was as aware as herself that it was got up 
only to gratify his own tastes, and had less than 
no existence out of his presence ; yet something 
in the resigned yearning of her tone sent a look 
into his eyes which presently emboldened her to 
say — 

" I must try not to think of these kind of 
things, mustn't I .? " adding a little later, with a 
tentative timidity, " I suppose you go to see Lady 
Bletchley now and then ? " 

But he had pulled himself together. " It is 
not much use looking up Felicity. As you are 
aware, female philanthropists are not often to be 
found at their own firesides." 

Her face fell, but presently regained a beam 
of hope. (" Of course, if he has not been in the 
habit of going to see her he could not begin now ; 
she would smeU a rat at once.") 

"Perhaps we may meet in the street acci- 
dentally some day," Miss Ransome continued, 
with an affecting air of forced cheerfulness, yet 
feeling her way as she went along ; " or, after all 
your kindness to me, it would be too dreadful to 


think of never seeing you again ! I would try — 
to meet — you anywhere — that was convenient 
— to you — if you gave me notice in time." 

He shook his head resolutely and quickly. 
Never had he felt less mirthful ; yet a bitter 
amusement crossed his mind at the thought of the 
distance which the young creature before him had 
traversed since the not distant date, when, accord- 
ing to her own avowal, she had been afraid to be 
left alone in the room with him 1 


The transfer had been efFected ; the shuttlecock 
had returned to that one of the two batdedores 
which had first propelled it. 

" It seems as if you had never been away ! " 
Lady Bletchley said, clasping Bonnybell to a heart 
still draped in complimentary mourning for the 
beneficent cousin who had turned her into a 

" Yes, doesn't it ? " answered the new arrival, 
with a warmly responsive embrace. 

It was not true. Half a lifetime's experience 
seemed to yawn between the present moment and 
the one during which she had questioned Felicity 
as to Edward^ habits, and suggested Camilla's 
rejuvenating herself with dye. But to assent to 
whatever proposition her host and hostess might 
choose to advance, more particularly in the earlier 
hours and days of a stay, was one of the funda- 
mental rules of Miss Ransome's code. 

" It is very delightful to have you back ! " 
— looking at the girl whose hand she still held 
with eyes so kind and admiring that Bonnybell 
made the comforting reflection, " I have evidently 
not gone off ! " "I missed you dreadfully ! It 



was very good of me to let them keep you all this 
while — two whole months, isn't it ? " 

Miss Ransome did not think it necessary to 
point out the trifling twist from strict veracity 
given to this sentence, but responded in meek 
correction of the faultiness of her patroness's 


" To be sure ! Three, of course. How sweet 
of you to remember the exact time that you have 
been away from me ! And how did you leave 
them ? " 

" I did not see Mr. Tancred," replied Bonny- 
bell, with a very slight lagging of the voice, which 
tallied with an inward pang of resentment at 
Edward's having shirked the farewell on which 
she had counted as the bouquet of her fireworks, 
by an earlier departure for London than his usual 
one. She added, " Mrs. Tancred was much as 

As she spoke Miss Ransome's mind re- 
pictured the parting with the iron-grey woman 
who had last ejected her ; recalled the valuable 
presents ungracefully given, the handsome tip 
coupled with harsh advice as to the methods 
of spending it, the cold formal farewell ended 
unexpectedly by both giver and receiver in a 
sudden kiss and " God bless you ! " 

'■'■Much as usual!'''' repeated Lady Bletchley, 
underlining Bonnybell's colourless description. 
" I am glad to hear you say so ! " 

" Why ? " 

"The last time she was here I thought her 


looking so exceptionally ill ! She is always a 
shocking colour ; but that day she looked livid. 
Of course, she pooh-poohed my anxiety about 
her ; but, do you know, it has occurred to me 
once or twice of late that there must be something 
rather gravely amiss with her." 

Bonnybell looked startled. Mrs, Tancred's 
complexion had never presented itself to the girl's 
eye or mind, except as a harmonious part of her 
general ugliness. That its leaden pallor had any 
relation to ill health had never struck her. Some- 
thing gravely amiss with Camilla ! Did that mean 
that before long she was going to die ? To do 
Miss Ransome justice, her first sensation when 
this idea presented itself was one of regret. Poor 
old Camilla 1 with her doughty championship 
against the Aylmers, and her handsome presents, 
and her tip, and that shamed and hurried yet 
motherly parting kiss ! Poor dear old Camilla ! 
It was only that second thought, which, despite 
the praising adage, is often a shabby thing, which 
presented the image of what would be the con- 
sequence of the extinction of the harsh old kind- 
liness that had sheltered and fought for her ! 
Edward with his handcuffs knocked off ! Edward 
able conscientiously to let himself go ! Whither ? 
There could be little doubt as to the answer ! 

"I do not think I noticed any difference," 
she replied slowly, seeing that her interlocutor 
was awaiting a response. 

" I am very much relieved to hear you say 
so," rejoined Lady Bletchley, as easily reassured 
as we all are when our hearts are not much 


engaged. "Of course, you, who have been 
seeing her daily, are a far better judge than I. 
No doubt it was the effect of some passing 
fatigue which frightened me. I have been rather 
wretched about her, as, apart from the real regard 
I have for her, I cannot imagine what would 
become of Edward if anything were to happen to 
her ! " 

Miss Ransome bent her head in sympathetic 
acquiescence. " What a ridiculous misrepresenta- 
tion ! and how unnecessary ! " she said to herself. 
She did not think the least the worse of Lady 
Bletchley for telling a lie, but felt a gentle pity 
for her for having produced such a poor specimen. 

"But come, do not let us talk of sad things 
to-day of all days 1 " continued the matron, 
allowing her voice to resume a prosperous cheer- 
fulness which came very naturally to it, and giving 
a final squeeze to Bonnybell's fingers before dis- 
missing them. 

" No, indeed 1 " — following her companion's 
lead with her usual sweet pliability. " And I have 
not congratulated you yet 1" — with a pretty hesi- 
tating smile and a slight glance at the compli- 
mentary mourning. 

"What about?" — with a rather transparent 
assumption of oblivion of her new honours. 

" What about .? " repeated Bonnybell, with a 
wise though inwardly amused air of being taken 
in by this simple affectation. " But I know how 
unworldly you always are ! " 

Lady Bletchley accepted this tribute as no 
more than her due. 


" I will own to you that Tom is unaffectedly 
pleased — very sorry for the poor fellow's untimely 
fate, of course, but otherwise, very happy about 
it all. As for me, I frankly told him that I could 
see no great cause for elation in having to change 
a very old name for a rather Brummagem title." 

Miss Bonnybell listened with the restrained 
admiration for such lofty disinterestedness which 
she felt was expected of her, and put in at the 

" You must remember how much more good 
you will be able to do. How often you used to 
regret that your means were rather limited ! " 

" Yes, if one keeps one's mind on that aspect 
of the affair — indeed, I do not attempt to deny " 
— relapsing into nature and complacency — " that 
there are things about it that I like." 

There was a short silence, Miss Ransome in 
fond fancy scattering old Tom's new millions with 

a liberayhand, and Felicity The trend of 

the latter's thought appeared presently in a sen- 
tence tinged with a natural regret that had no 
pose in it. 

" The only sad thing about it is that we have 
no one to come after us ! " 

" Have you tried Schwalbach ? " asked Bonny- 
bell, with heartfelt sympathy, and not for the 
moment recollecting that she was making her first 
lapse iromjeune fille-i%m ; " and have you heard of 

the new doctor in Paris ? Lady swears by 

him. She must be quite as old as you, and had 
been married twenty years, without chick or 
child ; but now " 


Lady Bletchley reddened. " It is not a subject 
I can discuss with you," she said, dryly ; but, 
mollified presently by the snubbed deprecation of 
the little innocent face opposite her, added, with 
an embarrassed laugh, " I see that Camilla has 
not, as I had hoped, succeeded in curing you of 
that deplorable habit of yours." 

Although feverishly eager to regain the ground 
lost by her slip. Miss Ransome could not help 
a very small smile, evoked by some pungent 
memory, yet it was with a mournful accent of 
remorse at the insuccess of the recorded admonish- 
ments that she said — 

" Mrs. Tancred often corrected me ; and I did 
try to improve, but I suppose it is because I feel 
so happy and at home here that I say just what 
comes uppermost." 

A little kiss, falling light as thistle-down upon 
the weU-cared-for hand nearest her, and accepted in 
quite a different spirit from that which had shaken 
off those attempted to be executed upon Camilla's 
bony knuckles, achieved the sinner's forgiveness. 
It was in a comfortable tone of intimacy and pros- 
pective enjoyment that Felicity began her cate- 
chism as to Miss Ransome's rural experiences, a 
catechism which the latter had foreseen, and, as 
far as possible, provided for, or rather against. 

"Now tell me, did Camilla make any diffi- 
culties about letting you go ? Was she much 
upset when my letter came ? " 

The attitude of Mrs. Tancred's mind towards 
her own departure had differed so widely from the 
one with which she was thus credited that even 


the ready Bonnybell had to hesitate a second or 
two before adjusting her answer. 

" I hope she missed me a little, but she was 
quite determined not to stand in my light." 

" H'm ! She thought it was to your advantage 
that you should come back to me ? " 

" How could she think anything else ? " 

Felicity looked flattered, yet a faint shade of 
doubt clouded the complacency of her good- 
humoured countenance. Former experiences of 
her sister-in-law did not quite tally with the ad- 
miring estimate thus implied. 

" She thought, too, that the life at Stillington 
was too quiet for a girl, and that a little London 
would be good for me," resumed Bonnybell, per- 
ceiving the infant incredulity, and meeting it with 
less art than she would have done had more 
leisure been given her. 

Lady Bletchley lifted her eyebrows. " Com- 
mend me to the inconsistency of a woman who 
piques herself upon being nothing if not con- 
sistent ! Camilla has always given me to under- 
stand that I am imperilling my soul by living in 
such a sink of iniquity." 

The incredulity of Felicity's tone was so de- 
cidedly increased that Bonnybell felt she was 
making fausse route. 

" Perhaps I am mistaken, and that it was Mr. 
Tancred who said that London would be good 
for me." 

Her thoughts went back to the sun-smitten 
trunk of the leafless tree, and Edward leaning 
against it, looking miserable and trying to smooth 


her fall by the unveraclties with which she her- 
self had now awkwardly saddled his eminently 
veracious wife. 

''Edward? H'm!" 

Something in the accent laid by Lady Bletchley 
on her brother's name alarmed Miss Ransome. 
" Oh, why did I put her on that tack ? She is 
wondering whether he was tarred with the same 
brush as old Tom. What possessed me to 
mention his name ? " 

"Edward!" repeated Felicity a second time 
and thoughtfully. " So he had an opinion about 
it too ! " 

" It was exactly the same as Mrs. Tancred's." 

" He would have kept it to himself if it had 
not been," replied Felicity, with a slighdy sarcastic 
laugh. "Well, tell me all about it. How did 
you like Edward ? " 

" I thought him perfectly charming ; he re- 
minded me so much oi you." 

The comparison instituted was meant by 
Miss Ransome as a compliment of the highest 
order, but In most human breasts there lie 
depths of self-esteem only accidentally hit upon 
by their acquaintances ; and the tone in which 
Edward's sister repeated " Of me ! " adding, 
with a heightened colour, "Well, at all events, 
I always know my own mind," showed that 
once again Bonnybell had mistaken the finger- 
posts of her road. She hastened to qualify her 

" Of course, your characters are not alike, but 
I noticed little turns of expression that brought 


you back to me. I was so glad of anything which 
did that." 

This adroit and touching exegesis merited 
and received a caress, and a fresh start was happily 

" Did you see much of him ? " 

" Hardly anything. He was in London all 
and every day." 

This negative scarcely pleased its utterer. It 
sounded to her own ears too emphatic, but it 
passed current admirably. 

" Yes, poor dear, I suppose he thinks he 
works quite hard." 

The slight tinge of friendly contempt in the 
tone and words would have roused another nature 
to angry partisanship ; but, as Miss Ransome 
wisely and soothingly remarked to herself, paupers 
could never afford to be angry or to defend their 
friends, and she therefore curved her lips into an 
acquiescent smile. 

" I suppose he was very nice to you when you 
did see him ?" 

"Very nice, when he remembered I was there." 

The catechiser looked at her curiously. " I 
should not think it was easy for any one to 
forget that you were there." 

" I mean that I did not make much difference 
to him^ one way or the other," rejoined Bonnybell, 
still carefully labouring to erase some undesir- 
able impression. "I was much more in Mrs. 
Tancred's way, poor thing ! " 

" You were a good deal with her ? " — with a 
slight accent of surprise. 


" Oh yes, she thought it right to see a good 
deal of me. You see, she was educating me. She 
thought me so grossly ignorant. Of course I am." 

" I am going to educate you too," returned 
Felicity, in a tone of slight pique, " in my way, 
which, I dare say, is rather a different one from 
Camilla's. I assure you I have plenty of work 
cut out for you." 

"Oh, I am glad," replied Miss Ransome, 
fervently, and bringing her hands together with a 
pretty childish gesture of elation, and inwardly 
congratulating herself upon the trend of the 
conversation away from a topic which she could 
not feel to be a safe one. But in this she rejoiced 
too soon, for after this slight diversion Lady 
Bletchley returned to the original theme. 

" You got on perfectly with both ? " 

" Oh, perfectly." 

" You must be very adaptable. But I know 
that you are that." 

" It is very good of you to think me so. 
When shall I begin my work ? " 

" No rubs at all ? " 

" No-o, none" 

" Not even when you said indecent things } " 

" If I said them it was because I did not know 
that they were indecent " — with the prettiest air 
of hurt artlessness. 

Felicity ruminated a minute or two, though, as 
the upshot showed, not upon the scabreux nature 
of her young friend's conversation. It was clear 
that her inquisitiveness as to her relations' minage 
had got the better of her sense of decorum. 


" They are a strange couple, are not they ? " 
The confidential character of words and Into- 
nation betrayed poor Miss Ransome into a new 

" I suppose," she said, with a curiosity not at 
all inferior to that of which she herself was the 
object, " that their marriage has never been 
anything but a nominal one," 


Felicity was as good as her word ; nor was 
there any delay in setting the restored acolyte to 
her destined labours. 

" I am afraid you will not find it very gay," 
Lady Bletchley had said, "but what with this 
mourning " — glancing at the very diluted ink of 
her attire — " and the terrible corvee of getting into 
the new house, I really cannot be bothered with 
society just now. However " — with a consolatory 
shrug — " it cannot well be duller than Stillington, 
where I suppose you literally never set eyes upon 
any one except the Aylmers." 

The entire innocence of purpose evident in 
this mention of the family alluded to proved to 
a relieved Miss Ransome that her late hosts had 
kept the secret of her misdemeanors faithfully. 

" By-the-by, I hear they have left the Dower 
House," continued the other, carelessly. " What 
can poor Edward do with his Sunday afternoons ! " 

Upon this topic Bonnybell could have shed 
some light, but as the question took an ejacula- 
tory shape she did not think it necessary to 
answer it. 

Although Lady Bletchley had alluded to her 


future change of house as a corvie, her haste to 
display the proportions of her new mansion — 
which deserved that pompous name for better 
reasons than the prosaic technical one of possess- 
ing a backstairs — to Bonnybell, took precedence 
of even her eagerness to set Miss Ransome to 
work ; and in enumerating the length of feet 
to which the ballroom ran, and giving the gene- 
alogies of the cabinets and chimney-pieces, she 
forgot to be bored. Her companion's mouth 
was filled with praise and thanksgiving, and 
her heart with upbraiding wonder at the ways 
of Providence. Fancy meanwhile sported among 
the alterations and improvements — all in atrocious 
taste — which she herself would make, were Tom's 
afFection blessedly to take a less amorous tone 
and he be moved to adopt and make her his 

While awaiting this happy consummation she 
had to content herself with receiving flattering 
comments upon her intelligent sympathy, as con- 
trasted with the block-like manner in which Miss 
Sloggett — Felicity's secretary — had treated the 
wonders of French art and delicate eighteenth- 
century luxury displayed before her unapprecia- 
tive eyes. In point of fact, the worthy lady, 
with a desire as sincere as Bonnybell's to hit 
her employer's mood, but a tact less sure, had 
expressed only an aspiration in imagined accord- 
ance with Lady Bletchley's well-published philan- 
thropy, that I^ord Bletchley might be persuaded 
to sell all these useless superfluities for the benefit 
of the East End. 


This naive proposal to return to methods in- 
culcated by the Teaching beside the Sea of Galilee 
did not meet with the reception it expected, and 
Miss Sloggett was shown nothing more. Even 
the present exhibition to a much more understand- 
ing spectator had to be scamped. 

" You are a delightful person to show things 
to, and there are any number more treasures for 
you to see" — the poor fellow was a well-known 
collector — " but the meeting is to be at four, and 
I have a good deal to arrange in connection with 
it beforehand. You will help me, I know. One 
is so cramped for space in Hill Street ! " 

The tone of resigned contempt in which the 
last clause of her speech was uttered showed that 
Felicity's ideas had thus early expanded to the size 
of her new surroundings, and Bonnybell gave a 
sardonic inward chuckle. But she threw herself 
with such ardour and appetite into the arrange- 
ments for the function indicated, and showed 
such mingled capacity and suavity in her manner 
of assigning seats to the company when it arrived, 
as to draw upon her from Lady Bletchley further 
comparisons of an invidiously favourable character 
with the blundering Sloggett. 

The meeting was that of a Ladies' Debating 
Society, held by turns at the house of each of the 
members, and was of a now not uncommon type. 
The subject of discussion was " Domestic Servants. 
Whether they need culture. If so, how we are to 
give it them ? " It opened with the reading of a 
fairly practical paper, much interrupted by voluble 
members. One large woman with a lisp, and 


apparently enfranchised from the bondage of 
corsets, was irrepressible in suggestions — not valu- 
able — and autobiographical experiences. A second 
joked rather scathingly, A third was sensible and 
serious, but dull. The fourth, and worst, a very 
foolish vessel, still more autobiographic, telling 
at great length of how she almost daily personally 
conducted her servants to the British Museum 
and the Tower. And when it was objected that 
this course must lead to difficulties as to the dis- 
charge of their duties, answered threadbarely, 
that if you wanted to do good you must make 
up your mind to sacrifice your own convenience 
to a certain extent, and that she kept a good many 
servants. The reader of the paper rejoined 
politely, but sarcastically, that perhaps those who 
had smaller households would suggest how the 
objection was to be met. And thereupon so 
many fair ones complied at once — the irrepressible 
obesity leading the van — that the chairwoman, 
Lady Bletchley, had to ring her bell repeatedly to 
call them to order. 

" Perhaps some of the members at the lower 
end of the room will let us hear what they have 
to say on the subject," Felicity suggested, when 
at length she was able to make herself audible, 
and looking encouragingly at half a dozen silent 
women. "Those at this end have taken up so 
much time in the discussion that the others have 
not had a chance." 

But the silent women remained silent, and the 
localized garrulity continued to rage fiercely, 
turning its boiling stream into the channel of the 


G.F.S. ; the foolish matron who announced the 
largeness of her establishment taking up her tale 
again, and going into details almost as intimate 
as, though less indelicate than, Mrs. Cluppins, 
when she appeared as witness for the prosecu- 
tion in the trial of Bardell v, Pickwick, of her 
domestic economy. 

" It takes a good deal out of one," Felicity- 
ejaculated, when at the close of the meeting — 
which every one present agreed had been a 
particularly good and helpful one — she and 
Bonnybell retired to Lady Bletchley's private 
room, while the drawing-rooms were being 
restored to their normal state. " But, as you 
see, it is well worth it." 

" Indeed I do." 

" The society has only been started three 
months, and it has already done an untold 
amount of good." 

" I am sure it has." 

" Subjects are threshed out, and people are 
woke up to a sense of duties which they had 
either forgotten or never realized." 

" I am sure they are." 

" But " — with a yawn and a stretch of 
luxurious relief — " it does take a good deal out 
of one ! " 

"Has the lady who takes her cook every 
day to the British Museum a husband ? " asked 
Bonnybell, feeling her way cautiously to a little 

Felicity laughed. " Yes ; but he can go to 
his club. Of course, she is a fool, poor dear ; 


but she is always good for a drawing-room meet- 
ing or a cheque." 

Miss Ransome was respectfully silent, musing 
upon the difFerent roots from which the beauteous 
flower of female friendship springs. 

" She is a Mrs. Slammer," continued Felicity, 
between two luxurious yawns. " She was an 
heiress, and her husband had to take her name. 
He was a Colonel Ransome, a well-known fortune- 
hunter, but quite in society. By-the-by, he may 
be a relation of yours. Is he ? " 

Bonnybell paused a moment. It was not 
likely to heighten her consideration in the eyes of 
the world that her kindred had repudiated her ; 
but, on the other hand, the fact of Miss Ransome's 
friendless state might intensify Felicity's com- 
passion for her, and if she told a lie upon the 
subject it was certain to be discovered, so she 
said with a drooped head — ■ 

" Our relations would not have anything to 
say to us, and of course I could not give CI — my 
mother up." 

Felicity's heart was not a hard one, and she 
rejoined hastily — 

" Oh yes, of course ; it was stupid of me to 
forget. I remember now what unnatural monsters 
we thought them at the time ; but, at all events, 
they did me a good turn in giving me you." 

This was charming, and BonnybeU would have 
been glad to be sure of being able to keep the 
thermometer of her friend's affection up to the 
point indicated by this little bvirst of effusiveness, 
but even the next sentence showed a descent. 


" All the same, it might not be a bad plan for 
you to cultivate her — she is not a bad-hearted 
woman, and has kept him wonderfully straight ; 
and, good and indulgent as Tom is to me, I 
cannot expect him to be willing always to have 
some one en tiers between him and me ; and life 
is so uncertain — Camilla's alarmingly so — that 
you cannot count upon Stillington." 

She paused, a little out of breath, or Bonnybell 
fancied so, from the haste with which she had 
scampered away from the clause that referred to 

" There is no greater mistake than going to 
meet misfortune," continued Felicity, distracted 
by her own reference to Stillington from the 
theme originally started ; " but I really dare not 
face the question of what would become of Edward 
in the case of Camilla's death." 

Bonnybell turned her head aside, with a little 
wincing movement that stood for emotion, but 
that in reality hid the ironic mirth which she 
feared must be in some degree making itself 
visible on her face at this grossly overcharged 
picture of Edward's prospective affliction. 

" Of course, they are very deeply attached to 
each other," she answered mournfully, " but men 
do get over things." 

" Get over things ! Deeply attached ! " re- 
peated Felicity, derisively. "Edward's manner 
to her has always been perfect, his whole relation 
to her kept in a key of the most exquisite taste, 
and I am sure that he has a very sincere respect 
for her ; but, poor dear Camilla " — with a little 


involuntary laugh—" is hardly a person to inspire 
a grander passion. No, no ; it is the financial 
aspect of the question that keeps me awake at 

There was nothing " put on" in the lengthen- 
ing oval of Miss Ransome's face at this an- 

" Do you mean," she asked slowly, " that Mr. 
Tancred would not be so well off if — he were to 
lose Mrs. Tancred ? " 

"iVb/ so well off?" repeated Felicity, with an 
annoyed laugh. " That is putting it very mildly. 
Why, if Camilla were to die to-morrow, he would 
be left with his paltry younger son's portion, and 
with whatever he tnakes " — the accompanying 
shrug expressed a minimum — " on the Stock 

To put direct questions about other people's 
finances had never been permissible by Miss 
Ransome's code of manners, yet she asked boldly 
and blankly — 

" Will not she leave him anything at all ? " 

"It is no question of her not leaving him 
anything," rejoined Lady Bletchley, impatiently, 
" but of his folly in refusing to accept a penny. 
At the time of the marriage he absolutely declined 
to allow her to make any provision for him, in 
the event of her death. It was a Quixotic notion 

that, because he did not care about her 

quite between ourselves, she married him ! 
Never shall I forget my stupefaction when I 
heard the news. ' That old guy ! ' I said — people 
used the word 'guy' more in those days than 


they do now, but I dare say you know what it 

" I can guess." 

" Since he did not care about her " — picking 
up the dropped thread of her sentence — " he 
would not be indebted to her for anything but 
his board and lodging ; and indeed " (with a 
renewal of vexed mirth), " I would not answer 
for it that he is not highflown enough to pay her 
even for that. I remember telling you once that 
Edward had strayed out of the Middle Ages ; 
you see now what I meant." 

Miss Ransome's knowledge of the period 
indicated was not equal to informing her whether 
the centuries alluded to were characterized by a 
marked aversion from profiting pecuniarily by 
unions with elderly heiresses ; but she assented, 
adding, with a very grave face — 

" Poor Mr. Tancred ! he has indeed every 
reason to try to keep Mrs. Tancred alive ! " Then, 
feeling dimly that the reflection had not quite a 
suitable ring, she hung on it a postscript. " And I 
am sure," she said prayerfully, "that I heartily 
wish it, for both their sakes." 

" I am sure you do," replied Felicity, but she 
spoke, or Bonnybell thought so, somewhat slowly, 
and looked at her rather hard, adding more glibly, 
" So you see that, considering the uncertainty of 
everything, it would not be a bad plan to cultivate 
the Slammers ; and I shall see that you have 
every opportunity for doing so." 

Bonnybell thanked her, and wondered inter- 
nally whether they would be likely to go to bed 


early. It needed solitude to face such a new 
aspect of affairs as the last ten minutes' conversa- 
tion had presented to her. 

" If Camilla died to-morrow, Edward would 
be almost as much of a pauper as I am ! " This 
was the fact that could be better faced by Bonny- 
bell with her hair hanging down her back in its 
nightly twisted cable and the enlargement of a 
dressing-gown. The added flights of stairs which 
Lady BletcUey would have had to climb made her 
visitor feel pretty secure from an invasion by her, 
but, to be on the safe side. Miss Ransome locked 
her door. 

''^ A pauper!" During her eighteen years 
Bonnybell had known many persons who freely 
gave themselves that name ; but it had never, so 
far as she could observe, produced any appreciable 
effect upon their mode of life or expenditure. 
She dimly felt that Edward's pauperism would be 
of a different type. Her imagination tried to 
construct a pauper of the upper classes with a 
sense of duty to his tailor and wine-merchant. 
Would he smoke pipes, and drink gin-and- 
water, and wear napless hats, and reach-me-down 
overcoats ? 

The frame was one into which it was so 
impossible to fit the portrait of Mr. Tancred 
that she laughed aloud, secure in having a whole 
floor to herself " My jaw dropped half a yard 
when I heard it," she soliloquized. " I am afraid 
that Felicity must have noticed it." 

An advance upon the glass and a practise in 


it of elongating her face to different lengths pro- 
duced such unsatisfactory results that she soon 
left off her efforts to reconstruct her own attitude 
under the late thunderbolt. Nor did she disguise 
from herself that it was a thunderbolt ! To do 
her justice, she had never, since hearing of its 
probability, consciously wished for Camilla's death ; 
yet there was no doubt that she had seen through 
a rosy mist, and at some future epoch, herself in 
various attitudes of near relationship- to Edward. 

People's love-dreams are shaped consonantly 
to their characters ; and Bonnybell's were as arti- 
ficial, and sophisticated as herself. She saw herself 
whizzing up the Champs Elys6es in an automobile 
in May when the chestnuts were out, in a dernier 
cri hat, by Edward's side ; sitting in an opera-box 
at Covent Garden, blazing in Camilla's diamonds, 
reset by a jeweller of the Rue de la Paix by 
Edward's side ; at Stillington, during one of their 
Saturday-to-Mondays there, smoking the best 
cigarettes procurable for money all over the house, 
and with no apprehension of any one smelling 
them, by Edward's side ; or without cigarettes, 
and receiving discreet and moderate endearments, 
well and easily kept within such bounds as she 
herself prescribed, from Edward. 

To her own surprise, it was the last picture 
upon which she dwelt longest, and with most 
pleasure. And now her house of cards lay in 
ruins at her feet, and it took her all her philosophy, 
and a little more, to pull herself together, and 
extract any cause of congratulation that might be 
found among their dibris. 


" What a mercy it was that we kept ourselves 
well in hand ! I do not think he could have 
held out much longer ; and as for me, whatever 
confidence one has in one's self, it is well not to 
put it to too severe a test. I really believe that 
two more Sunday walks, if the sun had shone, and 
those birds whose notes I never could distinguish 
apart had gone on singing, would have finished 
me off ! " After a pause, " I never could have 
believed that it would be hard to keep from being 
fond of any one." 

With that she dropped down in a sitting 
position on the hearthrug, and, embracing her 
knees with her lily arms and stooping her head 
down upon them, wept copiously. She went to 
bed later, and her last thought was a truly Chris- 
tian one, '• Poor dear old Camilla ! Her death 
would not do me the least good in the world, 
and I sincerely hope she may live to the age of 


Miss Ransome's eyes looked heavy next morning 
at breakfast. That her hostess noticed the fact 
was made apparent by a remark that followed her 
first glance at her guest. 

" I suppose you were very sorry to leave 
Stillington ? " 

" What an ass I was to cry ! " was the un- 
spoken response to this question. The spoken 
one ran more subtilely — 

" As sorry as I could be when I was so exceed- 
ingly glad too." 

" It seems delightfully natural to see you 
here," responded Felicity, with not inferior fond- 
ness. "But I must not have you looking pale 
because I keep you up listening to my tiresome 
worries ; of course, they are multiplied tenfold 
since you were here last." 

She paused to heave a sigh at the thought of 
the burden of her new prosperities, and Bonnybell 
gently echoed it at the pensive reflection how 
easily her own shoulders would bear the load 
were it transferred to them. 

" I shall send you out for a walk this morning," 


continued Lady Bletchley. " You look as If you 
wanted air." 

Bonnybell's heart leapt at the prospect thus 
indicated of a solitude tempered by shops, but 
her voice repelled the suggestion. 

" And leave you to cope alone with all that 
mass of work you told me of last night ? Do I 
look very pasty ? I dare say ; I did not sleep very 
well ; I suppose because I was too excited at being 
back again with you." 

This charming explanation was accepted as 
probable, and Miss Ransome's conscience eased 
by receiving the assurance that she could be 
equally useful to her patroness doing commissions 
out-of-doors ; that patroness's lady's-maid being 
apparently only inferior to her secretary, Miss 
Sloggett, in block-like stupidity. 

An hour later, therefore, Bonnybell found 
herself walking down Bond Street, chaperoned by 
the functionary in question, and entrusted with 
many nice tasks of matching, pricing, and order- 
ing. Shopping had always been inexpressibly dear 
to Miss Ransome's towny heart ; and though the 
choosing of vicarious finery was a very inferior 
pastime to the testing of colours and shapes upon 
her own light form and brilliant face ; yet it 
would have been difficult to find an anodyne 
more effectual than that provided, with no such 
intention nor the least knowledge that any pain- 
killer was needed, by her protectress. 

Bonnybell had set off on her walk in the 
lowest spirits possible to one of her nature. She 
had not at all adjusted her mind to a future from 


which Edward was eliminated. The insecurity 
of her present status, hinging on the more or 
less of water in the Scotch river honoured by 
Tom's rod ; and the dismal possibility of a 
livelihood dearly bought by conducting a Mrs. 
Slammer's servants to those elevating museums 
and exhibitions in which she herself would never 
willingly set foot, called forth reflections not 
calculated to exhilarate. 

But true philosophy, that " perpetual feast of 
nectared sweets," never leaves its sincere votary 
long unsupported ; and by the time that she 
had realized what starding surprises in shape 
and fabric the spring hats revealed, and that half 
a score of men had twisted their necks to get a 
longer look at her through the side window of 
their hansoms. Miss Ransome felt that there was 
yet balm in Gilead for her broken spirit. A really 
delightful hour and a half followed, spent in 
exhilarating intercourse with a couple of very 
smart dressmakers, during which she committed 
herself on her own account to two toilettes sirieuses, 
some trivial costlinesses in the way of " little " 
mutinies, fichus, veils, etc., and three really bewilder- 
ing toques. 

Her purchases made a large hole in Camilla's 
handsome tip — that is to say, they would have 
done if she had paid for them, but, as she piously 
said to herself, "Sufficient unto the day is the 
evil thereof," adding, less piously, that there was 
no reason why her future husband should not pay 
for them. 

Reluctantly, and summoned by duty, she at 


length began to turn her steps homeward, and was 
loitering a moment before a florist's — the flowers 
that grew in shops were the only ones really ad- 
mired by BonnybeU — and inhaling whifFs from 
the white lilac boughs and stacks of lilies-of-the- 
valley inside, when she was startled by a voice 
calling to her from an electric brougham which 
had pulled up at the kerbstone. 

" Bonnybell ! Bonnybell ! " 

Who could be Bonnybell-ing her here in 
Piccadilly, whither her maiden feet had now 
strayed ? The answer came aU too soon, nor did 
it take more than one glance at the face of the 
very pronounced " chemical blonde " thrust out 
of the automobile's window to tell Miss Ransome 
that she was once more face to face with her past 
and Flora Tennington. 

As on a former meeting, the pleasure in the 
encounter was all on one side. 

" This is rippin' ! " cried the occupant of the 
brougham, who occasionally borrowed a word of 
slang from the little young men who frequented 
her. " How long have you been up ? and why 
have not you been to see me ? " 

"I came up only the day before yesterday," 
replied BonnybeU, in a tone which implied that the 
lateness of her arrival was the only reason why 
she had not already sought out so chosen and 
valued a friend. (Dne must not make an enemy 
of Flora ; but what a piece of ill-luck ! 

As she spoke she stepped quickly across the 
pavement, to hinder, by greater proximity, the 
sharing by other ears of the unavoidable impending 


dialogue ; and tried to put her head so far inside 
the carriage window as to hide from passers-by the 
identity of her flamboyant friend. 

" Where are you staying ? " 

" In Hill Street." 

" Come back to luncheon with me." 

" Oh, how I should love it ! but I am staying 
with — people." 

" What people .? " 

At this query a horrifying vision passed before 
Miss Ransome's eyes, of Flora, champagne-headed, 
low-necked, whitened and sealing-waxed, sweep- 
ing into Felicity's drawing-room and falling on 
her own neck under that lady's nose. 

" Oh, nobody very interesting ; not your 

A look of cynic humour flashed into the 
other's highly decorated eyes. 

" I see," she said, dryly ; adding, " But at least 
come and take a turn with me. If you sit well 
back nobody will see you, and I have a hundred 
things to say to you. Come, get in ! " 

Bonnybell hesitated, though nothing could be 
more distasteful to her than her present position. 
At high noon, in open confabulation with a lady 
of Flora's appearance and antecedents, exposed 
to the probability of recognition, and observed 
with respectful surprise by the chaperoning lady's- 
maid, who, if she was of the block-like stupidity 
attributed to her by her mistress, was likewise of 
the highest and touchiest respectability. The 
sense of having conveyed to an old friend with 
brutal clumsiness that she was ashamed of being 


seen with her annoyed Miss Ransome also, though 
in a less degree. She put her face — it seemed 
impossible that both were made of the same 
materials — very close to Flora's, and whispered — 

"There's a dragon with me — an imbecile 
of a maid. I dare not send her back without 

" Give her five shillings, and tell her to hold 
her tongue." 

This counsel, though its radical badness and 
inartistic quality was fully recognized by its re- 
cipient, was yet finally accepted, as being the least 
objectionable of the only two alternatives open to 
her. Flora, as she knew, would not let her go 
without a prolonged exchange of questions and 
answers, heard inevitably by the footman holding 
the brougham door open, and probably by a 
goodly number of Piccadilly fldneurs. Bonnybell 
had often before tipped servants to silence, and 
even when the tip was not very large or likely 
to have successors had seldom found reason to 
complain of their fidelity. 

As Lady Tennington never cared what she 
said, where she said it, or who heard it. Miss 
Ransome decided that she had, on the whole, 
chosen practically the least perilous of the two 
vexatious paths open to her, when she and 
her companion were whizzing down the great 

"So it is all off ! " said Flora, without preamble, 
as soon as they were in motion. 


" It was all on ; and it is all off." 


Miss Ransome was too old a hand, in ex- 
perience if not in years, to be trapped into a 
confidence by the device of pretending to know 
all about it ; so her rejoinder was a fence. 

" What was all on, and is all off ? " 

"Oh, come, do not pretend innocence ; we 
have not too much time. Remember that it was 
I who first introduced you to him — turned you 
into the conservatory together, the day he came 
to your rescue when you were in such an abject 
fright at the idea of a tete-h-tete drive home with 
poor old Charlie." She chuckled at the recol- 
lection ; and, since the only way in which Bonny- 
bell showed that she " rose " to this jogging of 
her memory was by a slight shiver, continued, " It 
came to grief over a letter. Did anything unlucky 
turn up ? Did they find out anything ? " 

A slight repetition of the shiver produced by 
" Charlie's " name ran over Bonnybell. Stillington 
might not have effected much in the way of moral 
teaching, but it had at least made Flora's scheme 
of ethics unfamiliar. And Flora's appearance did 
not gain in impressiveness by proximity. She 
had evidently lately embarked on a new dye, 
which had stained her hair with a brilliant pink 
hue. If it was champagne-coloured now, it was 
a very bad and headachey champagne ! 

There was a lovely maiden flush on Bonny- 
bell's cheek as she answered very gently — 

" There was nothing about me to find out ; 
nothing that I could help." 

Lady Tennington looked at her with com- 
passionate surprise and amusement at the carefuUy 


suppressed indignation lurking under her mild 

" I know that ; you always were a very good 
little miss ! " she rejoined, laughing ; then, more 
seriously, "Yes, you poor little devil, I really 
believe that you are speaking truth ; and, of 
course, Claire had no business to take you to 
those places." 

" She never did when she was all right." 

The plea was set up with the customary 
generosity ; nor did its utterer ever seem aware 
that the defence was in itself an indictment. 

"Well, how much came out? " 

There could be no doubt that Flora did know, 
yet Bonnybell's resolution not to go further in 
admissions than she was absolutely compelled was 

" How did you hear about it ? " 

" Oh, how does one hear things ? Servants, 
little birds, God knows what! I asked Charlie 
whether he knew anything about it, but he only 
laughed, and said, whoever the writer was, he 
had done Bonnybell a good turn," (It was not 
because Flora's pink hair and chalky face were 
disagreeable objects that Miss Ransome had 
turned away her head.) "Of course, I at once 
concluded that he had written it himself. He 
really wiU play these little games once too often, 
and get himself into trouble." (To most people 
it would have seemed difficult for " Charlie " to 
effect that object more thoroughly than he had 
already done.) " I suppose that it is partly his 
way of showing his affection for you, and partly 


that being in such low water himself has made 
him spiteful. My prudish friends tell me I ought 
to shut my door on him, but I am not fond of 
shutting doors upon people, it is not a pleasant 
process for either side." 

She spoke as one who had known, personally, 
the outside of a good many doors. 

" You were always so kind." 

" Yes, so I was and am " — accepting the 
tribute as her undoubted due (there were so 
many tributes that never were and never could 
be paid to Flora) — "but it is not altogether 
that. I do not want to make an enemy of 
him ; and, low in the world as he is, he could 
yet do me a nasty turn, as he has just done 
you. If you take my advice, my dear, you 
will keep on terms with him, despite his last 

Bonnybell heaved a most unaffected sigh. A 
feeling of disgusted despair took temporary pos- 
session of her sanguine breast. Was she never 
to be able to free herself from the environment 
of mud and slime into which circumstances, not 
herself, had plunged her ? Was she never to 
get away from the past and its most hideous 
embodiment, Charlie ? He had done her a good 
turn this time, but he would repeat his action 
when it would not be a good turn. She might 
be just about to pull off something really good — 
the eyes of the passers-by, both on foot and in 
hansoms, had convinced her how much lay in 
her power if she had a fair chance — and Charlie 
would come in again with his thrust in the dark, 

2 A 


another of his anonymous letters would arrive, 
and it would all be " blued " ! 

" Is he in London ? " she asked faintly. 

"I do not know. He comes and goes. I 
generally see him when he is up. I am afraid, 
poor devil, that mine is the only respectable house 
left open to him." 

A streak of sincere amusement stirred the 
younger woman's gloom. Poor, dear Flora ! 
she must be forgetting to whom she is talking. 
Perhaps Flora remembered, for she left the 

" You know that I have left Tennington .'' " 

" Yes, I was so sorry." 

" It is more than I was," replied Flora, dryly. 
" I never had such a run of bad cards in my life 
as I had there, and I always detest the country." 

" How can any one who is in their senses like 
living there ? " agreed BonnybeU, fervently, de- 
riving the first advantage she had yet reaped from 
the lost Edward in the ability to lay aside for ever 
her rural enthusiasms. 

" I shall take a cottage on the river in the 
summer, and you must come and stay with me, 
and we will get hold of some of the old set — oh 
no, not Charlie, of course — some of the right 

It was not easy to Miss Ransome, though she 
accomplished it — since it pleased Flora, and tied 
her to nothing — to give an answer to the effect 
that Heaven seemed to open to her at this pros- 
pect. Flora needed some amends for the plain 
indications she herself had been obliged to give 


her, that the world's market-places were not the 
spots where conferences with her were most to be 
relished ; and, moreover, acquiescence in distant 
made it easier to evade nearer projects of re- 

'* Cannot you dine quietly with me to-night 
or some other night ? We will get somebody to 
feed us at the Carlton and take us to hear Suzette 
at the Empire. I believe she has brought over 
her Paris ripertoire quite unmutilated ! " 

Bonnybell veiled the terror inspired by this 
proposition by a little grimace of regret that had 
something of truth in it. If Lady Tennington 
could be made invisible and Lady Bletchley's ears 
stopped, their protigie would have thoroughly 
enjoyed listening once again, with the perfect 
comprehension she did herself the justice to 
know that she could bring to them, to Suzette's 
astonishing audacities. Suzette was canaille be- 
fore everything ; but what a genius ! 

" Oh, what a treat it would have been for me ! 
ahd how dear of you to think of it ! But it is — 
as pleasant things generally are for me, nowadays 
— quite out of the question. I am to spend a 
' Happy Evening.' " 

" I hope that you would do that with 
me ! 

" It is not quite the same class of happiness. 
It is a factory girls' ' Happy Evening.' " 

Both laughed, and Bonnybell made a second 
and better grimace. 

"Miss Sloggett is going to show them her 
magic lantern." 


" Miss Sloggett ! What a name ! Who is 
Miss Sloggett ? " 

"Oh, she is an old ass who does secretary 
and door-mat to — to — the friend I am staying 

After all, there were " points " in being able, 
for a whole hour, not to be " a nice girl." Flora 
was a good sort, for she did not press her invita- 
tion, and without being asked — perhaps because 
she had not failed to perceive Bonnybell's latent 
effort to conceal her hostess's name — set her down 
at the corner of HiU Street, magnanimously re- 
fraining from any attempt to pry into what was 
so clearly meant to be hidden from her, though 
the motive for concealment could scarcely be a 
flattering one. 

It was with a trembling hand that Bonnybell 
rang the bell — a project for compassing the pos- 
session of a latch-key flitting through her head — 
but she was quiue pour la peur. Though the 
church clock in South Audley Street had pointed 
to five minutes past .two. Felicity had not missed 
her. She was soon — with a mind relieved at 
least from that portion of its load — ^giving a 
report, with excisions something like those prac- 
tised on Russian newspapers, of her morning's 
employment, and adorning it with touches, so 
nicely adapted to Felicity's humour, that the 
latter ended by expressing an ecstatic wonder 
as to how she had ever managed to bear so long 
the absence from her side of such a seasoner and 
sweetener of her own toilsome existence. Her 
regret extended even to being unable — owing 


to another engagement — to be present at the 
" Happy Evening," to which Bonnybell and 
Miss Sloggett proceeded in the brougham without 

Bonnybell would have liked to be silent during 
the drive, ruminating over the additions made to 
her difficulties by the morning's meeting, and the 
news it brought her. But poor Sloggett's spirits 
were in a very tender condition, and asked for 
delicate handling. A nascent jealousy of herself, 
which amused Miss Ransome, coupled with 
deep misgivings as to her own capacity for the 
evening's task, combined to overset the poor 

" I trust there will be no contretemps ! I 
trust it will all go well ; but I have not much 
confidence in myself. I am only a beginner. I 
hope it will be all right." 

" What does it matter if it is not } It will 
only be the more amusing." It was the sort of 
ointment with which she was wont to anoint her 
own hurts, but it was clear that such was not the 
balm for Miss Sloggett's wounds. 

" Oh, but Lady Bletchley would be so much 
annoyed at any contretemps^ 

" Why need she ever hear of it ? " 

A shocked look in the face of the more 
conscientious understudy brought Bonnybell back 
at once to the sense of having deviated slightly 
but certainly from the path of niceness. "It 
must have been that whiiF of Flora which 
demoralized me," she said to herself, but she 
hastened to mend the breach. 


" I made the suggestion," she said, with 
uncommon sweetness, "because I would not for 
the world add anything to Lady Bletchley's 
trials" (it is just as well to pretend that I 
believe in that peach-fed old Felicity's imaginary 
troubles), " and also because I do not want you 
to suffer." 

The sympathy in eye and tone was — or to 
Miss Sloggett it seemed so — unactably sincere. 

" It is very good of you to care," she 
murmured, still half-doubtfiilly ; but there was 
a slight mist before her eyes. 

The poor secretary's misgivings were amply 
justified by the result. Not only was she, as 
she had tremblingly confessed, new to the task 
of exhibition, but the " plant " was deplorably 
inadequate, the magic lantern much too large 
for the sheet. Before it, in its first innocent 
blankness, sat the girls, prepared to comment, 
with their terrible town frankness, in giggling 
rows upon the magic lantern and its manager. 
The latter prefaced each picture with a little 
explanatory speech, the first tinged with regretful 

" I am afraid that, owing to the smallness of 
the sheet, I shall not be able to show you the 
whole picture at once. I wiU, however, show 
you as much as I can of ' The Father of the 
Prodigal Son.' " 

In fulfilment of this promise, the character 
alluded to flashed upon tiie sheet, with a very 
crowded and uncomfortable appearance, and — 
with no legs. 


There was a nervous sense of not entire 
success in the accents with which the subsequent 
pictures were heralded. 

" You all know the story of ' The Prodigal 
Son,' don't you, girls ? how, ' while he was yet 
a great way off,' his father met him? He did 
not wait for the poor prodigal to come to him ; 
he ran to meet him with outstretched arms ! " 

The picture followed ; but the effect was 
somewhat marred by the fact that it revealed the 
father sitting motionless indoors with his head in 
his hands. 

It was in vain that the luckless show-woman 
hastily explained that she had made a mistake, 
and that her elucidation referred to the slide 
that was to follow, not to the present one. To 
an accompaniment of squeals of laughter and 
flowers of cockney wit, the exhibition igno- 
miniously ended. 

It was a very crushed Miss Sloggett whose 
failing heart Bonnybell good-naturedly tried to 
uplift on the , homeward drive, and a sense of 
amusement presently pervaded her own rather 
drooped spirits at the perception that, after all, the 
poor secretary was ready to take a leaf out of 
Miss Ransome's book. 

" I think," she said, hesitatingly, " that, con- 
sidering how much Lady Bletchley has of various 
kinds to occupy and distress her just at present, 
it would, perhaps, be as well not to go into details 
over the evening." 

Never was it the least difficult to Bonnybell 
to promise or perform connivance in any form of 


deceit, and she kindly and warmly acquiesced. 
She had not the slightest wish to harm poor 
Sloggett. Was not there, after all, a good deal 
of analogy between their fates ? (" I am a pretty 
Sloggett, and she is an ugly Bonnybell, but we 
both live by our wits.") 


The spring drew on disagreeably, according to its 
vernal wont. But if the thermometer did not tell 
that winter was on the wane, the lengthening days 
did so, and the flower-baskets in the streets told 
the town-dweller what sheets of anemone and 
narcissus were spreading over the pleasant fields 
of France, and scenting the sea round Scilly. 
As to the temperature, what did that matter in 
London ? Warmed by every one else's fire as 
well as your own, you had pity enough and to 
spare for shiverers in the odious country, but not 
much need for compassion yourself. 

Such were a part of Miss Ransome's reflec- 
tions on the loth of March. So far they were 
comfortable ones ; but they shared the theatre of 
her mind with many less complacent — with many 
deep misgivings. Tom had not yet re-appeared 
on the scene, having transferred himself and his 
fishing-tackle to a wild part of Ireland ; but his 
re-entrance could hardly be much longer delayed. 
That it was imminent Bonnybell gathered by the 
increased frequency of Felicity's lamentations over 
the necessity for their ever parting. That it was 
not a necessity never seemed to occur to her, even 



in mid-Jeremiad ; even when Bonnybell, with a 
touch too light to brush the bloom from a butter- 
fly's wing, threw In an infinitely far-off hint to 
that effect. The satisfaction which she therefore 
derived from being continually told that she was 
Lady Bletchley's right hand was a very mutilated 
one. No sign of flinching on the part of that 
heroic lady fi-om the intention of cutting off that 
right hand was perceptible to eyes that daily and 
hourly grew more strainingly anxious to discover 
it. To make herself indispensable, that was her 
one chance. It had always been the leading 
principle of her actions since her enforced return ; 
but she was also by nature eminently obliging 
and serviable. Nor did she slack her efforts, even 
when each day added something to her conviction 
that they were going to be useless. " I shall 
be dismissed on the day before Tom's return," 
she said to herself, with lugubrious shrewdness* 
" Felicity will not turn me out earlier, for her 
own sake, and also because she is rather com- 
punctious about me. That is why she is thrusting 
me down Mrs. Slammer's throat." 

No sign of help showed on the horizon from 
the direction of StiUington. The intercourse 
between the two families seemed slighter than 
ever, and it had never been close. And even if 
they^ — if Camilla — had been willing to re-house 
her, she was almost sure that she did not wish to 
go back. After what she had learnt, it would be 
stupid to put herself in the way of growing fonder 
of Edward than she already was. The degree 
and pertinacity of her regard for him often 


annoyed her. No, she had no wish to go back 
to Stillington, and yet — what a noise those tire- 
some birds must be making in the wood by now ! 

To be Lady Bletchley's right hand was no sine- 
cure ; but though the humanitarian interest could 
scarcely be said to be strongly developed in Miss 
Ransome, she took up her share of the burden of 
Felicity's good works — increased tenfold by the 
latter's rise in life — with a will, reflecting philo- 
sophically that it was quite as well not to have 
much time to think, since she had nothing satis- 
factory to think about, and finding or making many 
little oases of worldly pleasure amid the sands 
of philanthropy. Lady Bletchley had announced 
that she was not going out ; but abstention from 
society, as understood by her, was compatible 
with seeing a large number and variety of people. 

BonnybeU had received ample confirmation 
of the verdict pronounced by the Bond Street 
hansoms on the first day of her arrival. She had 
met many young men, gilded and ungilt, in 
Felicity's drawing-room, a large number of whom 
had been obviously willing to endear themselves 
to her. It was a more respectful form of love 
than she had been used to in the old days ; but 
her wary eye had detected a want of seriousness 
in the intentions of the majority, and even among 
the business-like minority not one was found, after 
careful sifting of their positions and prospects, 
worth running the risk of provoking another of 
Charlie's anonymous revelations. "I must not 
let myself go cheap because I am in low water 
just now," she said, to herself, with no sense 


of special cynicism in the reflection. "I can 
well afFord to wait. I shall probably even 
improve, and " — with a sigh — " I think I dis- 
like the idea of marriage, if possible, more than 
ever ! 

Charlie ! Yes, Charlie was in London. She 
had caught sight of him one day in a little street off 
the Strand — Charlie was not fond of frequented 
thoroughfares — whither Felicity had sent her to 
look up a case of sweating, and, to the surprise of 
the chaperoning maid, had darted into a tobacco- 
nist's shop to hide herself from him. She hoped 
that he had not seen her ; but with Charlie one 
never knew. Oh, if she could make some one — 
some one really eligible — love her enough to dare 

to tell him about M 's and the other places, 

she might defy Charlie — snap her fingers at him ! 
But the test mentally applied to every one of her 
aspirants broke down hopelessly. 

It was the loth of March on which the blow 
fell. The room was the same room in which 
poor Miss Ransome had been made aware of 
Edward's disqualifications. It seemed to gloomy 
after-reflections as if its one purpose in life was to 
be the setting for disagreeable communications. 
Though business was its predominant note, 
luxury was not altogether banished from Felicity's 
sitting-room, and It was in a very well stuffed 
armchair, if that could be any source of comfort 
to her, that the " right hand " received its ampu- 
tation. It was not often that Felicity allowed 
herself time to sit down, but she also was in 
an armchair, taking a brief respite from labour 


between the trying of Court gowns and laying 
the foundation-stone of a Home for Infant 

Felicity was overdoing herself with the 
thoroughness of a fine lady " doubled " by a social 
reformer. But at the present moment something 
besides fatigue sat on her troubled countenance. 
And Bonnybell recognized, through having seen it 
before on another face, the signal for ejection. It 
was too late to avert it, yet none the less was 
there a cheerful daughterly sympathy in her pretty 
voice as she said — 

" What a pity that you cannot put off the 
Infant Inebriates to another day ! I know how 
specially interested you are in them, poor little 
things, even more than you are" — with an accent 
of affectionate reverence — " in all good works ; 
but you do look so tired ! " 

" I am tired," replied the other. " I am 
always tired now. As soon as the bazaar is well 
over — by-the-by, the Duchess has never yet 
answered as to the date — I shall take a rest cure. 

Dr. says it is indispensable ; that I am 

living on my nerves." 

The first blast of the Trump of Doom had 
sounded. The second was not slow to follow. 

" I shall be more tired still when I have to do 
without you." The voice was tender and com- 
plaining, but there was also a sort of confusion — 
a mauvaise honte in it. Ejectment was on the 
edge of the lamenting lips. 

Bonnybell was silent. (At all events, I will 
not make it easier for her.) 


" Tom has written to say that he will be back 
on Tuesday." 

Miss Ransome's was, after all, a brave spirit. 
There was an interval of scarcely five seconds 
before she was answering playfully, in quite a 
gallant voice — 

"And he naturally wishes his house to be 
cleared of rubbish before his return." 

The confusion on Felicity's face deepened. 
As an actress she had neither facility nor dis- 

" You have always an amusing way of putting 
things, but of course you do not mean it ! You 
know as well as I do that Tom is the last person 
in the world to think anybody ' rubbish ; ' and he 
is the soul of hospitality, but^he has been away 
a long time, and perhaps — at first — he would 
expect to have me to himself I " 

Bonnybell made a litde gesture of assent. 
She would be able to speak in a moment or two. 
One thought of pious thankfulness meanwhile 
darted across her dismay. Thank Heaven ! she 
had not paid any of her bills, and Camilla's tips 
lay intact in her despatch-box. 

" "What day would you like me to go ? " she 
asked presently, with a mild but purposed bald- 
ness, in pursuance of her intention of not, as 
she would have phrased it, letting Felicity down 
easily. " Perhaps, by working very hard, I might 
get the bazaar lists finished by to-morrow." 

Under the apparent generosity of the sentence 
there lurked a little snake of pardonable malice. 
Miss Ransome was well aware that the function 


alluded to, "The Fancy Fair for All England 
CatalepticSj" to be held under Distinguished 
Patronage in the Albert Hall in mid-May, one 
of the Vice-Presidencies of which had been ac- 
cepted by Lady Bletchley before her new honours, 
with aU their attendant labours, had fallen upon 
her, was rapidly developing into an incubus and a 
nightmare. Bonnybell was also aware that the 
loss of her own aid would be an irreparable one ; 
but there was perhaps more subtlety than kind- 
liness in reminding her patroness of the fact at 
the moment. The success was all she could have 

" What day I wish you to go ? You can have 
very little idea what you have been to me to put 
such a question." 

Miss Ransome received the reproach, made 
with every evidence of a wounded feeling tending 
towards hysterics, in unwonted silence. She did 
not feel inclined to caress Felicity, and for once 
she might follow a natural bent, since clearly 
nothing was to be gained by endearments. She 
was thinking that though Felicity had repudiated 
the idea of any likeness existing between herself 
and her brother, there was — though he was far the 
more delicate artist of the two — a certain resem- 
blance between their attitude as " Chuckers Out." 
There was a hurt disappointment at not receiving 
an answering burst of affection in return for her 
output of fond reproach in Lady Bletchley' s tone 
when she resumed — 

" As to the lists, there is no hurry ; for though 
you will not be actually in the house, you will be 


able to help me almost as much as if you were. 
You will not be far off." 

" I do not quite know where I shall be." A 
moment later, in uncomplaining after-thought — 
" If you could spare me for an hour this afternoon, 
I might inquire about lodgings ; they would be 
better for me than an hotel, don't you think — 
and — cheaper ? " 

At this suggestion a hot flush overspread 
Felicity's fagged face. 

" Lodgings ! a hotel ! " she repeated. " I do 
not know what you are talking about. Is it 
possible that you suppose I am going to plant 
you on the pavement, because I am most reluc- 
tantly compelled to abridge your visit ? Would 
that be like me ? " 

The extreme out-of-countenanceness — if such 
a clumsy word may be framed — of her patroness, 
and a consciousness of how well-founded in sound 
reason was her own removal from Lord Bletchley's 
hearth-stone before his return to it, produced a 
half-magnanimous, half-malicious pity in Bonny- 
bell, and gave her back her priceless gift of 

" Because you have been incomparably good to 
me for many weeks gives me no claim upon you 
for further kindness." Such un-upbraiding acqui- 
escence in unmerited chastisement spoke in tone 
and words that Felicity's rejoinder came chokingly. 

" There is no question of kindness ; between 
people who love each other there can be no 
question of kindness ; but come " — pulling her- 
self together — "we must not let ourselves be 


silly, and make mountains out of molehills ; we 
shall still be able to see a great deal of each other. 
It is not more than five minutes' walk from the 
Slammers' house here." 

" The Slammers ? " 

" Yes ; how stupid of me ! " — hurrying on. 
" I forgot that I had not explained to you that I 
have arranged with Mrs. Slammer for you to 
pay her a good long visit." 

" Mrs. Slammer ! " 

" Yes " — still more rapidly. " You know that 
she is a sort of connection of yours ; and she 
has none of that unamiable feeling about — about 
the past which you told me your relations in 
general had shown, and she is rather lonely, poor 
woman. Entre nous, I do not think the marriage 
is a great success ; she has taken an immense 
fancy to you, and she needs a — a " — " secretary " 
was on the edge of Lady Bletchley's tongue, but 
a memory of Bonnybell's hopelessly fancy spelling 
arrested it — " a nice girl to be a sort of daughter 
to her. I — I could not think of anything better 
for the moment. I do not see why it may not 
work pretty well ; Colonel Slammer is a great 
deal away from home." 

Even the ndivetS of the last implication failed 
to stir the least sense of merriment in Miss Ran- 
some. With lips parted by horror and dismay, 
she sat staring stupidly at the author of the 
atrocious project thus revealed, while the near 
future unrolled itself before her mental vision 
in all its squalid terror ; a future of abetting a 
second-rate fool in her chimerical efforts for the 

2 B 


elevation of minds to whose raising or lowering 
Miss Ransome was and would remain absolutely 
indifferent ; a future of conducting unwilling 
maid-servants by bus and tram and subterranean 
grimynesses to museums and libraries, which it 
was impossible that they could dislike more than 
she. The prospect was monstrous, unfaceable, 
and for a moment or two the idea of evading it 
by taking refuge with Flora, abandoning the 
struggle to be or seem " nice," and returning to 
the old life, presented itself as the most endurable 
alternative. The old life and Charlie? No, 
Charlie was more to be shunned than any museum ! 
That would not do. . . . 

It feU out, with an irony whose pungency 
Miss Ransome felt to the fuU, that the close of 
the day on which a second shipwreck had over- 
taken her light bark was dedicated to the last 
" Happy Evening " of the season. Through 
previous functions of the kind her gay insouciance 
and adaptability had carried her triumphantly. 
She had been a great success among the girls ; 
had borne their affectionate horseplay with light, 
good humour, and had received with gratitude, 
tempered with regret that they should be so 
audible to her coadjutor, the expressions of their 
candidly uttered preference of her to Miss Sloggett. 
To-day she had no coadjutor, the secretary being 
confined to bed by one of those large outspoken 
colds which always made Lady Bletchley angry. 

As Bonnybell drove along eastwards her heart 
felt depressed almost beyond the power of re- 
bound. This was to be her life ; this process of 


being bandied about from one set of unwilling 
benefactors to another, at every change sinking 
deeper into distasteful drudgery. This was all the 
good she was to gain from being extraordinarily 
pretty, and always ready to agree with everybody. 
If the figure of Charlie had not stood like a beacon 
warning her oiF, she would have gone back to the 
old life, to the petits diners at improper restaurants ; 
to the loose talk and equivocal love-making. 

Whether it were due to the want of spring 
in her own spirits, or simply to the agency of an 
unkind fate, the fact remained that the girls were 
more unruly than usual, and more difficult to 
amuse. It being Friday, dancing was not among 
the pastimes allowed, yet Miss Ransome must 
have been at her wits' end before proposing 
the game of Consequences to which— as a last 
resource, when the clamour was getting beyond 
her control — she resorted. 

" Had they ever played Consequences ? " 

One girl answered, " Ow yes, miss, I 'ave 

Pencils and papers were produced, and the 
game began. Bonnybell herself was to read out 
the papers at the end. 

The results were disastrously successful, as far 
as the entertainment of the players was con- 
cerned, but also in some cases unspeakable. The 
luckless initiator of the game was reduced to 
having to pretend an inability to r^ad the hand- 
writings submitted to her, floundering in efforts to 
suppress and substitute. What they were doing 
was invariably " kissing." " He gave her a kiss. 


and she gave him a black eye." "They met, as 
often as not, in a ditch." " He said to her, 
' Give me a kiss,' and she said to him, * Gow 

'ome.' " The " consequences " were No 

one could call Bonnybell squeamish, yet the con- 
sequences bathed her in blushes. 

A grimly amused sense of a likeness to poor 
Sloggett in the ill-success of her evening's labours 
streaked the ink of Miss Ransome's reflections 
on her homeward way. 

The butler, who opened the door to her, 
gave her the information that her ladyship had 
returned, and would like to speak to Miss 
Ransome in her bedroom. 

Felicity was in bed, but sitting up, with 
writing materials before her, though looking stiU 
more fagged than earlier in the day, and a good 
deal flushed. She dismissed Bonnybell' s expres- 
sions of surprised concern very slightly. 

"Yes, the hall was hot. I felt rather faint, 
and had to come out before the end, but the 
meeting went oflF admirably. The delegates were 
delighted with their reception. What I wanted 
to say to you to-night, in case I might forget it 
to-morrow morning — not that that is likely — ^is 
that you must impress upon Mrs. Slammer that 
she cannot expect your help at her stall at the 
Cataleptics. JYou must explain to her that you 
have been engaged to me since last autumn — ever 
since last November." 


After all, if she had but known, it would not 
make much difFerence to Lady Bletchley what or 
what manner of assistants Mrs. Slammer would 
have at her stall at the Fancy Fair for All 
England Cataleptics, which was to be held under 
Distinguished Patronage in the Albert Hall at 
mid-May, since at that date she herself had already 
been two months dead. The sequence of events 
which led to that catastrophe was a now not 
uncommon one. A vital energy weakened by 
over-exertion, a chill, a consultation, a successful 
operation — in medical parlance, a successful 
operation is often one in which the patient dies 
next day, instead of immediately under the sur- 
geon's knife — followed two days later by a 
paragraph in all the morning papers : " We 
regret to announce the death, which took place 
at an early hour yesterday morning, from appen- 
dicitis, at her residence in Hill Street, of Lady 
Bletchley. The deceased lady, better known as 
Mrs. Glanville — her husband. Lord Bletchley, 
having succeeded to the title by the death of the 
fourth Lord only in January last — was a well- 
known figure in social and philanthropic circles, 



where her loss will be long and deeply deplored. 

She was " Then followed a lengthy list of 

societies, associations, organizations, of hospitals, 
institutions, and institutes, in connection with 
which Lady Bletchley had cut a more or less 
prominent figure. 

Bonnybell read the flaming obituary notices 
carefully to the end, and then laid down the 
papers — her eyes felt tired — with a sigh. " Poor 
dear thing, how she would have enjoyed them ! " 

Miss Ransome still felt rather stunned from 
the effects of the tragic haste with wjiich the 
dreadful events of the last two or three days had 
followed on each other's heels — from the moment 
when she had left Felicity sitting up, flushed, in 
bed, adjuring her not to play her false in the 
matter of the bazaar. There had, indeed, been 
haste, strange haste, on the dead woman's part to 
leave a world so full of a double relish and savour 
since her accession to fortune ; such haste that she 
had not even waited to say a farewell word to the 
husband whose anxiety to " have her " to himself 
had been the motive for Bonnybell's ejection. 

Tom had not returned in time to see his wife 
alive. Though she had now been twenty-four 
hours dead, he had not yet returned. Camilla 
and Edward were in the house. They had come 
at once. How widely all the many ways in which 
Bonnybell had figured to herself the manner of 
her next meeting with Edward had differed from 
the real one ! Camilla ? No, there was no 
change in Camilla. If anything, she looked 
perhaps a shade less haggard than when Miss 


Ransome had parted from her. Camilla's face 
was one that matched a house of mourning. It 
needed no dressing to harmonize with gloom. 
On looking back, Miss Ransome seemed dimly 
to remember that she herself had been voluntarily 
embraced with an only half-smothered kindness, 
but at the time of the Tancreds' arrival, when poor 
Felicity's fate still hung in the balance, her own 
mind was in such a state of strained tension and 
grisly surprise that impressions came but blurred 
to it. 

Now that the power of observation was coming 
back to her, the extreme wretchedness of Edward's 
air struck her with a sense of excess. Of course, 
the whole aiFair was terrible in its suddenness ; 
but Edward had never seemed to be very fond of 
his sister. Miss Ransome's knowledge of human 
nature was not yet deep enough to teach her that 
the death of a person to whom one has owed 
and not given love sometimes brings with it a 
bitterer pang than that of one to whom has been 
given our poor best of tenderness. 

Now that the thing was impossible, Edward 
was telling himself what an innocent pretence it 
would have been to have feigned a little interest 
in his sister's unpractical schemes, a little admira- 
tion for her sincere, if wasted, humanity. The 
lesson that life dins into our ears with sucK 
ceaseless iteration that it seems impossible that 
any of us could ever fail to hear it is, To make 
haste to be kind I Edward felt that he had not 
made haste, and that now the opportunity had for 
ever escaped him. 


For a whole day and night Felicity had been 
dead, and Tom had not yet returned. The tele- 
grams sent after had missed him, owing to a change 
in his quarters from one remote fishing village 
to another. More and more urgent ones had 
been sent in every direction, and to every one who 
might possibly be in communication with him, but 
so far he had not appeared. There could be no 
doubt that he woiild arrive to-day. After all 
Felicity's precautions against their meeting, it 
would be Bonnybell that would receive him, and 
not she. Nothing ever affected Miss Ransome 
very deeply, but at this reflection a profounder 
sense than ever before of the grim quality of 
Fate's sense of humour penetrated her. 

She was sitting idle, in the room which had 
been the scene of so many of her mornings' 
labours for Felicity. Evidence of the dead 
woman's interrupted toils lay strewn all over the 
large brass-bound writing-table, bulging out of 
pigeon-holes in the bureau, occupying in their 
varied multiplicity even a part of the carpet. 
Poor Felicity ! how astonishing it was of her to 
die ! A quite sincere compassion, and even a 
small contraction of the heart, slid off into painful 
speculation as -to how yesterday's catastrophe 
would affect the speculator's future ? Would the 
Slammer plan still hold good ? Perhaps, now 
that there was no longer a socially influential 
Lady Bletchley to oblige, it would be allowed by 
its entertainer to damp off. And if it did not — if 
it became action, how much more dismal a future 
it involved than it had done, even in its original 


dreary conception ! Had poor Felicity lived, she 
would always have been a resource, a refuge, 
an antidote ! She would have been always joy- 
fully grateful for as much of her society as Miss 
Ransome could spare ; as much, that is, as 
would have been consistent with keeping her well 
separated from Tom. 'Tom ! 

Bonnybell's thoughts came to a full stop upon 
the name. Irony, irony 1 Who was there to 
prevent her meeting Tom now .'' Poor Felicity ! 
She was going to meet him that very minute, 
meet him tete-k-tSte ! His footfall was inaudible 
upon the thickly carpeted stairs ; but the turning 
of the door-handle gave her an instant of pre- 
paration. It was as well that she had expected, 
since otherwise she would scarcely have recognized 
him ! Where was the rubicund, pink-clean, 
amorously smiling Tom of her recollection ? 
Could this livid, staring-haired, unshorn stranger, 
whose eyes were wild with misery, and mouth 
twitched with pain, be indeed he ? 

The first moment that their looks crossed, 
Bonnybell saw that the sight of her gave him a 
shock of surprise. Poor Felicity ! It flashed 
through the girl's mind in a moment that Tom's 
wife had hidden from him all along the fact of 
her being a guest in his house. The look of 
surprise vanished, as it had come, instantaneously. 
It was clear that in his whole being there was no 
room for any feeling but one. (Perhaps, after all. 
Felicity had spoken the truth ! Perhaps, after 
all, he would have liked to have her to himself ! ) 

" So I am too late ? " 


" Yes." 

« When ? " 

" Yesterday morning, at twenty minutes to 

*' Did she leave any message for me ? " 

" She was unconscious." 

At that answer it seemed as if there could be 
nothing more of any consequence to him on 
earth. He asked no further questions, but sat 
down heavily on a chair — a business-like, green- 
leather-seated one — which had so often held the 
form of Felicity as she dictated her circulars, 
notices, and leaflets. 

Bonnybell stood -beside him, a slender, silent 
image of sympathy.. How very much sorrier he 
was than she had expected ! What sort of thi^jgs 
ought she to say to him ? A vague idea of 
having heard that people sinking into a stunned 
state from grief ought to be roused crossed her 
mind. How was he to be roused ? 

" As long as she was conscious she was always 
talking of you." 

At that he broke into loud weeping. " If I 
could have heard her speak just once again— just 
to teU me that she forgave me ! " 

" I am sure that she did not think there was 
anything to forgive." 

" Oh, but there was — plenty^' 

He was so evidently going over in acute 
remorse his past peccadilloes, that Bonnybell fell 
silent again, divided between a repelled pity — 
his noisy grief reminded her of Toby, never a 
pleasing memory — and an uncomfortable wonder 


whether, in his present frame of mind, she herself 
might not be a somewhat unwelcome object to 
him ? How curiously tender some men's con- 
sciences were ! After all, what had poor old 
Tom to reproach himself with ? — some sly and 
invariably baffled attempts at caresses, and a few 
silly letters ! 

" She said over and over again to me how 
kind and indulgent you always were to her ! " 

" Kind, indulgent !" he repeated, from between 
his hard sobs. " Was that the way she put it ? 
Good God ! but it was just like her ! There 
never was such an angel of goodness and gentle- 
ness and forbearance ! Married five and twenty 
years — we should have kept our silver wedding 
this year — and I never had a cross word from her 
all that time ! " 

" I know you had not." 

It was not in the least true. Many were 
the pungent snubs that, on her first visit. Miss 
Ransome had heard administered by Felicity to 
her mate, and many the nettled retorts with which 
he had answered. But she saw that he believed 
in the perfect truth of his statement, and that it 
gave him a sort of relief from his misery to raise 
his lost wife to the clouds and depress himself to 
the pit. 

" Just look round," he went on, turning his 
streaming and reddened eyes about the room 
upon the evidences of Felicity's labours. " This 
was her life — ^always working for others ; never 
giving a thought to herself; working herself to 
death for other people ; but all on the quiet ! 


You never would have known it from her ! Never 
a word of boasting ; just doing it for the love of 
the thing, not wanting any credit or glory for 

He paused, not because his Cornucopia of 
praises was empty, but because tears strangled 
him. Bonnybell listened in covert wonder. Was 
it possible that he believed all that ? Could not 
he have found something a little nearer the truth 
to say of her ? 

" And there was I all the time, in my beastly 
selfishness, thinking of nothing but my own 
amusements ; shirking everything disagreeable ; 
laying everything on her shoulders ; never 
profiting in the least by her example ; disregard- 
ing her advice ; wasting my time in doing 
things that I knew she disapproved of ! " 

The picture was to the ftall as overcharged as 
the companion portrait had been, but it was not 
yet highly coloured enough to suit the painter's 
fancy ; and since it gave a little relief to the 
poor man's remorse, Bonnybell took care not to 
interrupt him. 

" I often hurt her feelings by the things I 
did, even making much of other people under 
her very eyes ! She never took the least notice, 
or gave me one word of reproach ; but I am sure 
it hurt her, though she must have known how 
little I cared about them, about anybody, or any- 
thing, in comparison of her ! " 

In the bewildered agony of his mind, poor 
Tom had evidently clean forgotten how prominent 
a place in the group alluded to the lady before 


him had taken ; but she herself was somewhat 
acutely conscious of it, and since she had always 
been able to laugh at her own expense, a dread- 
ful sense of amusement tinged the distress and 
awkwardness of the situation, 

" She was a wonderfully handsome woman to 
her last day, wasn't she ? I never went into a 
room with her that she was not the best-looking 
woman there ; but you have no conception what 
she was when I married her ; her beauty was 
q uite — quite — unearthly. ' ' 

" I can well believe it ! " 

Truth had once again returned to the bottom 
of her well. Felicity's somewhat buxom charms 
had never struck Bonnybell as of so overpowering 
a character either in the present or the past. But 
if ever there was a pardonable fiction it lay in her 
acquiescence in his flights of remorseful fancy. 

For another half-hour he went on piling up 
encomiums, some partially merited, some grossly 
undeserved, upon his departed wife, and heighten- 
ing the whiteness of her portrait by additional 
strokes of lampblack added to his own, until at 
last he stopped, exhausted, there being no more 
glory left in memory or imagination to pile upon 
her, nor any further disgrace with which to daub 
himself. But the exercise had done him good. 


Felicity's obsequies had been celebrated with 
due pomp, and — fate still continuing in her ironic 
vein — Lady Bletchley's first visit to the most 
imposing of her new country houses^there were 
half a dozen of them — was made under circum- 
stances which precluded all enjoyment of its 

As Miss Ransome noted the throng of dele- 
gates and journalists who crowded round Felicity's 
grave, and glanced at the inscriptions on gigantic 
wreaths sent by societies and institutions, she 
repeated to herself with less of cynicism than sin- 
cere compassion, " Poor thing, how she would 
have enjoyed it ! " 

And now the mourners were back again in 
Hill Street, and feeling the dull relief that ensues 
after an ended ordeal. 

Edward, who had been with the widower, had 
just received and obeyed a summons to Camilla. 
He found her lying on the sofa in her dressing- 
room. She was doing it thoroughly, as she did 
everything ; that is to say, she lay perfectly flat, 
with her head resting on a cushion ; but her 



attitude managed to express a protest which pro- 
claimed that its adoption was due solely to doctor's 
orders, and as little as possible to any inclination 
towards self-indulgence. 

" How is he now ? " 

" Oh, he'll be all right." 

"Is he calmer ? " 

" Yes, now and then. He has just been telling 
me of a new man whom his keeper has heard of 
to get pheasants' eggs from." 

Mrs. Tancred looked at her husband with 
penetrating surprise. She had never known 
Edward intolerant before ; yet there was not 
much warmth of compassion in his tone. To one 
of Edward's nature, noise and grief were im- 
possible companions, and his brother-in-law's un- 
controlled demonstration at the graveside had, as 
Camilla was aware, been almost intolerable to her 

" Sorrow affects people in different ways," 
she said, with a rebuke which was gently meant, 
though it sounded, as her mildest utterances 
always did, severe and didactic. 

" Yes, I know ; but he made such an 
exhibition of himself." 

There was a moment's silence. 

" You will be glad to get back to Stillington ?" 

« Yes." 

Another pause. 

" We must take Bonnybell with us." 

At that he gave — not a stage start, but one 
of those almost invisible movements for which 
stage starts are meant to stand. 


" We cannot, of course, leave her here." 

There was no form of ejaculation or assent 
in the whole range of language strong enough 
to express Mr. Tancred's acquiescence in this 
impossibility, so he said only — 

" No." 

" I have not yet talked to her about her 
plans ; if she has made any — and I doubt her 
having gone even so far — they are probably 
perfectly irrational and chimerical." 

" I dare say." 

" I do not even know — the intercourse 
between us has been so slack of late — whether — 
under your sister's auspices — she has made any 
friends that could be useful or helpful to her." 

Any one but Camilla would at such a moment 
have prefixed a " poor " to Felicity's name ; but 
Mrs. Tancred would have scorned to employ the 
adjective to any him or her simply because they 
were dead. To her it seemed a very doubtful 
ground for compassion. 

Edward shook his head. . 

" Under the circumstances, I think there is 
no doubt that it is our duty to have her back, at 
all events, for a while." 

This time the hearer gave at first no sign of 
either acquiescence or dissent ; then he spoke — 
not easily. 

" But you f how about you f " 

" How about me ? " she repeated. " You know 
that for the present my malady seems to be at a 
standstill ; whether owing or not to the treatment 
I have been undergoing I cannot tell ; personally 


I believe it to be only what I suppose would be 
called a reprieve^ and that the operation, which 
lately seemed imminent, is only deferred for a 
more or less brief period. Anyhow, the fact 
remains, that I have no longer an excuse for 
avoiding duties disagreeable or otherwise ; and I 
believe the case we are discussing comes under 
one or other of those heads." 

There could be no doubt in the husband's 
mind under which head the return of Miss Ran- 
some was mentally classed by his wife, though 
she magnanimously refrained from specifying it. 

" It is like you to propose it," he answered 
slowly ; but more laggingly still, " I cannot see 
why you should embitter your life for the sake of 
a person who, after all, has no real claim upon 

. Camilla looked at him with a calm compassion, 
accurately gauging what an utterance in such 
absolute discord with his own clearly divined 
inclinations had cost him. 

" My life is not so easily embittered," she 
rejoined quietly, " and I have never wished or 
expected personal enjoyment to have a very 
prominent part in my programme — you need not 
feel any disquiet on that head — and besides " — her 
usual rigid truthfulness combining with a wish to 
meet her companion's self-sacrificing utterance in 
a like spirit to produce the concluding, "and 
besides, there is much about the girl as an inmate 
that is not disagreeable to me." 

If he had followed his impulses, he would 
have broken out into emphatic expressions of 

2 c 


gratitude ; but realizing just in time what a fright- 
ful lapse from taste and seemliness it would 
involve to accept as a personal kindness done to 
himself the contemplated step, he refrained. 

" It shall be, of course, as you wish," he said, 
and so left the room. 

He left the house too, the confinement of walls 
and roof seeming unbearable. He must have open 
air and solitude in which to bring himself face to 
face with the new prospect, at which in his wife's 
presence he had trusted himself to give only a 
glance. What right had he to think it so fair ? 
He must call mightily upon Reason and Honour 
to cudgel him, if necessary, out of so mad and 
ruinous a belief. But they might cudgel him as 
they would — and they did belabour him soundly 
during the next hour — nothing could hinder him 
from looking at the Great Scheme of Things from 
a different standpoint to that with which he had 
regarded it as he remorsefully followed his too- 
little-loved sister's hearse ! Since those moments 
of woolly despair what had happened to better 
his lot or brighten his prospects ? What had 
happened, but that a young girl of vicious origin 
and upbringing, standing upon a hopelessly low 
plane of thought and action, a young girl who had 
brought discomfort and scandal into his home, 
alienated his friends, and poisoned his wife's peace, 
was to be given the opportunity of pursuing and 
completing her work of disintegration ! What 
but this had happened to make " the March sun 
shine like May," to turn the dry easterly blast 
into a zephyr .? Reason and Honour combined 


to answer emphatically, *' Nothing, less than 
nothing ! " but another voice out-shouted them, 
dumbing them with its insistent joyous assevera- 
tion, " Everything ! " This voice was so im- 
possible to silence, that at last he was reduced to 
listening to it, to asking it what it had to say for 
itself; and it began lengthily to explain. There 
were, certainly, disadvantages inseparable from the 
girl's resumption of her place at his fireside — 
he tried to school himself into treating her in his 
innermost thoughts merely as " the girl " — but 
there would be good to be extracted from it 
too, if it was taken in the right way. Never 
could she hope to be under such wholesome and 
^lev^ting an influence as his wife's ; and he him- 
self might do something too, if he took the 
relation in the right way. Everything depended 
oji taking it in the right way ! He would begin 
at once — the very next time that they met — to set 
it upon a safe basis ; to give the keynote of their 
future intercourse, and, with her extraordinary 
quickness and brightness, she would at once catch 
the right tone and keep it. God knows he had 
tried to do his best for her ; to give her some 
notion of honour and truth, and decent living ; 
and he had made some progress. She lied still, 
but she said fewer indecent things ; and she tried 
with such sweet docility to see his point of view, 
when she managed to grasp what it was. 

Thank God, he had nothing to reproach him- 
self with, nothing, that is, that was visible or 
audible to any human eye or ear ; but some- 
times the ground had seemed to be crumbling 


into sand under his feet. Henceforth the foun- 
dation on which he and she were together to stand 
was to be of granite ; and if, by-and-by, he 
were to succeed — he and his wife together — in 
leading her on and up, till her mind and moral 
nature more nearly matched her exquisite body, 
what an entrancing litde friend she would make 
for them both ! how she would soothe and 
brighten their waning years ! 

To be quite on the safe side, he framed to him- 
self the fiction that Camilla and he were coeval. 
That there should be any delay in embarking 
on this halcyon plan seemed unendurable, and he 
began at once to reflect upon the earliest train by 
which he and his augmented party might return 
to Stillington on the morrow. 

It was in the highest degree unseemly to 
suspect Tom, at such an infant stage of his loud 
sorrow and early widowhood ; but Edward knew 
his brother-in-law well enough to be quite sure 
that the lapse of a very few days would see him 
— if Bonnybell wore an apron — drying his eyes 
upon a corner of it. So Mr. Tancred wondered 
whether his wife would think the 8.50 train too 

Meanwhile, the cause of Mr. Tancred's self- 
schoolings was in no danger of incurring a remorse 
like his for being too cheerful. She was alone 
in a sitting-room, which had been occupied by her 
during the last two or three days, because, since 
it looked to the back, its blinds had not needed 
to be pulled down, and she was sitting in an 
attitude of, for once, entirely unstudied dejection. 


Since no one was likely to intrude upon her, 
she might be and look just as miserable or 
as little miserable as she felt inclined. The 
quantum of grief expressed by her whole person 
was enough to have satisfied even the claims of 
Tom's gluttonous demands upon his friends for a 
sorrow as vociferous as his own. 

For once Miss Ransome's philosophy was 
quite out of gear, and her spirits had descended 
below the soles of her feet, and abode there. She 
had cried a good deal, though not in public — a 
thing which she always disliked. Private weeping 
could serve no purpose of cajoling, persuading, or 
mollifying, and was likely to be damaging to that 
stock in trade of which her eyes formed so valu- 
able an item ; and she had hated the funeral. 
It had reminded her of poor Claire's, though, 
except in the main fact, no other functions could 
ever have differed more widely ; and for " Claire " 
in her small, cool heart, there always lingered a 
remnant of rueful pity, though it never ran to the 
length of wishing to have her back again. 

Tom's deportment and appearance at the 
ceremony had been as repulsive to her as to his 
brother-in-law. Why^ in Heaven's name, if he 
were so overwhelmed with grief at the loss of a 
wife, his tenderness to whom while in life had 
been eked out by so many fond by-plays with 
others, could not he control it as an English 
gentleman of his class and breeding was bound 
to do ? Why, in the face of that large and 
reverent gathering, need he have roared like a 
bull and blubbered like a whipped schoolboy ? 


And why, oh, why need Edward and he have 
stood side by side, so as to bring into monstrous 
prominence the contrast between them ? Not 
even grief had succeeded in paling Tom, and 
the image of his rubicund face defaced by tears, 
of his bulky outline and shining bared head 
beside the silent pale dignity of Edward's sorrow, 
filled Bonnybell with physical disgust. 

Her thoughts moved on a little from the 
funeral to a scene that followed the return from 
it. " Poor old woman, she really did not do 
it badly, considering how litde practice she has 
had in pretending. I could have given her a few 
hints, but it really was a very creditable perform- 
ance ; and in a way I think it was a disappoint- 
ment to her to forego continuing my education. 
Never again can she hope to have a pupil who 
set off by, and meant to go on, knowing as litde 
as I ! " 

Upon the hitherto unlightened gloom of her 
spirits there played a little ray of cynic mirth, 
but the gust of a heavy sigh blew it out. " But 
what a relief too ! I saw a sort of shining come 
into her poor old eyes — they are not nearly so 
hard and horny as they were when first I knew 
them — and when she at last took in that I was in 
earnest, that the Slammers' invitation was not 
one of my tasteful embroideries, how hard she 
ti-ied not to beam too flagrantly ! " 

A pause, and then a still heavier sigh than 
the last. " I was right, undoubtedly I was right. 
It would have been madness. It may be all very 
weU for people who have a high level, and think 


they can keep up to it — it would still remain 
to be proved if they could — but as for me, I 
never had any level to speak of, and I do not 
possess that confidence in myself which I once 
had. I believe I am quite capable of committing 
a sottise if I put myself in the way of it ; and at 
this time of the year I suppose all those horrid 
birds in the copse would be love-making, and it 
might have been catching." 

As she spoke, the door gently opened ; and, 
since the sitting-room was a general one there 
was nothing strange in the fact, the object of her 
thoughts came in. 

" I was looking for you." 

" Were you ? " 

" My wife will have told you that we hope, 
unless you have any objection to the plan, to take 
you back to Stillington with us to-morrow, and 
I have come to ask you if the 8.50 from Pad'- 
dington would be too early for you." 

He had got the right key, hospitable and 
courteous, erring perhaps a little on the side of 
excess in the way of formality, but that was a 
fault on the safe side. 

Before he spoke, Bonnybell had known that 
he had not yet heard, and that it would be her 
task to tell him. She saw also, with a slight tinge 
of bitter amusement, his anxiety not to let their 
point of departure for the long ordeal ahead of 
them be one of too great intimacy. (" Reassure 
yourself, my poor Edward ; you may set your 
mind at rest.") 

The lack of her usual civil promptness in 


acknowledging a courtesy caused him a slight 
surprise, but it was so far not coupled with any 
misgiving. It did not need any of that self-esteem 
in which Edward was so singularly lacking to 
feel sure that his hearer could have no alterna- 
tive plan which she would think preferable to the 
one now offered her, so he added, still with that 
soupgon of formality — 

" I ought to apologize for suggesting such an 
unreasonable hour." 

Consciousness of his endeavour to keep her 
at arm's length gave her the strength to show 
him the needlessness of his precautions, though 
her mode of opening the subject was misleading. 

" You always thought me rather a sluggard," 
she said softly ; " do you remember ? " 

But no " do you remembers " were to enter 
into his programme, and though more against 
the grain than he liked to own, he cut this one 

"I never could understand why there is a 
virtue per se in getting up early." 

" No," she answered, acquiescing sweetly in the 
lopping off the head of her bud of reminiscence ; 
"there are enough real virtues and vices, aren't 
there, without loading us with mock ones ? " 

He had led the talk to a safe abstraction, 
yet already he felt the strain. 

" It is settled, then .-' " — taking for granted 
with unconscious arbitrariness what she had not 
said— "8.50." 

To his intense surprise and alarm her answer 
was to rise from the depths of her chair — what a 


little slip of a thing she looked in her new mourn- 
ing ! Launce's description of his sister, " White 
as a lily and small as a wand," darted across 
Edward's mind— and drawing near him, she laid 
her hand upon his coat-sleeve. Evidently the 
keeping at arm's length would be a harder task 
than he had promised himself. 

"No, it is not settled," she said; "nothing 
about it is settled except that you have made 
one poor creature even more everlastingly your 
debtor than she was before by proposing it." 

He looked back at her aghast, yet only half 
believing, unconscious of what at any other 
moment he would have been tinglingly aware, 
the clasp of her fingers on his arm. He knew 
her to be so complete a liar, that the mere fact 
of her announcing that she did not purpose to 
return to Stillington was, as likely as not, to 
mean that she had every intention of doing so. 
Was this refusal one of her infinite wiles to 
lure him into cajoling and caressing her into 
compliance .'' 

"Am I to understand that you have made 
other plans ? " His voice was frosty ; too frosty, 
perhaps, or it seemed so to himself, for he added 
more in his own manner, "I beg your pardon 
for what may sound like an impertinent intrusion, 
but you have taken me by surprise." 

The chill in his tone had loosened her clasp 
upon his sleeve, and they stood near but apart 
from one another. 

" I am going to stay with the Slammers." 

" The Slammers ? " 


There was such hopeless bewilderment in his 
repetition of the name that she felt the need of 
enlightening him. 

" I am stupid to-day ; probably you have 
never heard of them. I was forgetting how little 
you know of the life here of late." 

"You need not remind me that I was a 
neglectful brother," he answered, in a key of 
such profound regret that she took refuge from 
her dangerous pity of him in explanation. 

" They are, in a way, connections of mine — at 
least, he is'; his name was Ransome before he 
married her. He was, like the rest of the family, 
not a very shining light, I believe, but now he 
has ranged himself, I suppose, and she is very 
philanthropic and platformy and religious," 

He received the blow in total silence, being 
not one of those who cry out when they are 
hurt. When at last he spoke, it was with a 
measured impartiality, which sounded to himself 
grossly overdone. 

" I suppose that you are the best judge of 
what makes for your happiness." 

" One ought not to think of one's own happi- 
ness," she answered, in her "nicest" manner; 
then with a flash of self-ridicule for serving up so 
coarsely dressed a dish of " goodness " to one 
who knew her much too well to swallow it, she 
added with a laugh, whose hysteric quality, if 
half affected, was also half natural — " at least, so 
Mrs. Slammer tells her husband when she whips 
oiF her cordon bleu half an hour before dinner to 
see the Monument." 


Her mental comment on her own speech — 
for she was not one with whom thought and 
word ever flowed parallel — ran thus : " What 
atrocious taste to be making bad jests to poor 
Felicity's brother on the day of the funeral ! but 
if I am not flippant, God knows what I may 
say or do ! " 

He stood before her absolutely still, not 
moving a muscle at her dull pleasantry. 

" Have you thought it well over ? Are you 
quite sure that it would not be better for you 
to come back with us to Stillington to-morrow ? " 

Once again the calm aloofness of his tone 
sounded overdone to Edward's ear, but it did 
not for a moment take in his hearer. (" Poor 
fellow, how hard he is trying to be good ! I 
suppose it is a beautiful sight, and I must not 
be outdone.") There was the gentlest rebuke 
in her sorrowful little voice as she answered — 

"I know that you are not likely to be joking 
to-day ; but when you ask that you seem to be 
mocking me." 

" Then why do you refuse ? " 

She dropped her eyes to the carpet, and gave 
him the opportunity of verifying that the large 
white lids were a little swollen and discoloured 
with weeping. He had to count thirty clock- 
beats before her answer came. ("If I give in 
now, I am done for," she was saying to herself. 
"At the present moment I feel as if Edward 
would make up for everything ; as if nothing in 
the world would be of any value without him, 
but / know all the while that I do not really think 


so") She raised her eyes slowly, as if tears made 
them difficult to lift. 

" It would be better for me ; but would it be 
better for Camilla ? " 

In the tension of the moment neither of 
them noticed Bonnybell's unwonted use of Mrs. 
Tancred's Christian name. (She must have been 
mistaken in thinking that Edward looked white 
as he stood by his sister's grave. If he was 
white then, what was he now .'') 

"Do not misunderstand me," she went on, 
almost under her breath, but quite distinctly ; 
"what I mean to say is that I do not see how 
things are changed since I was sent away because 
she was too ill to have the worry and anxiety 
of me." 

If Bonnybell's eyes had found it hard to raise 
themselves, Edward's lips found it harder still to 
frame the few words of his response. 

" She is in stronger health than she was then." 

" For the moment, yes ; but it may be only 
a reprieve. She told me herself that she looked 
upon it only as a reprieve." 

In the eagerness and real emotion with which 
she was putting forth her apology, Miss Ransome 
forgot for the moment to postulate the supposable 
regret which she had always believed to be non- 
existent in the mind of the husband at the 
probability of his wife's death ; yet for a moment 
that oversight gave the husband an acute revulsion 
of feeling. 

" God grant she may be wrong ! " he said 
with a low fervency which, as his hearer felt, 


could not have been put on. She saw her error, 
and hastened to repair it. 

" I was going to say you cannot wish it more 
than I do 1 " — with a slight low laugh at the 
exaggeration of her own expression — "but I do 
wish it with all my heart ! I should be a monster 
of ingratitude if I did not." 

It was very nearly true. Since Camilla's death 
could in no wise profit her, and the memory of 
her solid kindliness was fresh and vivid, Miss 
Ransome did wish, with as much sincerity as she 
was capable of, that Camilla should live, and not 
die, if she thought such a life as hers worth 

After that there was not much more to be 
said, and in a few moments he left her. Neither 
by the 8.50 nor by any other train was she to 
return to his hearth's side. As he reached the 
door she called softly after him ; since she was 
quite safe now she might give herself that slight 
indulgence — 

"Give my love to the birds. I hope that 
your next pupil will be quicker in learning your 
lessons about them." 

He answered, "I shall never have another 
pupil ; " and it was to his credit that this was the 
nearest he ever went to a declaration. 


A YEAR and a day had passed since Lady 
Bletchley's obsequies. (The word is what she 
would herself have liked to hear applied to them.) 
All the presidencies, vice-presidencies, member- 
ships of committees and goveriiing bodies which 
she had so stirringly filled, had been apportioned 
among half a dozen less active-minded holders ; 
and though the newspapers of the day had pro- 
nounced her loss to be an irreparable one, to 
the naked eye it seemed already repaired. On 
the other hand, her memory probably lurked 
unsuspected in the breasts of recipients of her 
least trumpeted benefactions. The winter had 
been mild, and the season promised to be a 
forward one. 

"Through wood and stream and field and hill and ocean, 
A quickening life from the earth's heart had burst ; 
As it has ever done with change and motion. 
From the great Morning of the world when first 
God dawned on chaos." 

And above the sheeted primroses in the Stillington 
woods the birds' calls and rondels rang out in 
intemperate gladness. That was outside ; within, 



a white woman lay on a bed — a white woman 
lately escaped from the surgeon's knife, escaped 
with life from the surgeon's hands. 

Camilla, in the late months of growing suffer- 
ing, had made every disposition for death ; had 
" set her house " in order — not that it ever 
needed that — and had turned her stern face with 
silent valour towards the unpierceable darkness 
of the grave. And Death would have none of 
her ! Not only had the operation she had under- 
gone been performed successfully, in a different 
sense from poor Felicity's, but it had revealed 
the comparatively harmless character of the 
malady that had rendered it necessary. Camilla 
was to live, and not die. 

By the bedside a man knelt, holding her wan 
hands. She was whispering to him. 

" Can you forgive me ? " 

" Forgive you ? For what ? " 

" For not having died 1 Not — having — set 
you — free." 

He bowed his head on her hands ; and she 
felt his tears upon them. Then he lifted his 

" Forgive you ! Forgive the one person in 
the world who loves me for having the charity 
not to leave me ! " 

Though Mrs. Tancred's convalescence was a 
rapid one, she was not for some days allowed 
to see her correspondence, nor read any of the 
numerous letters of sympathy and congratulation 
addressed to her husband. Amongst the first 


put into her hands by the latter was one which 
ran as follows. It was dated on the eve of the 

"212, Green Street, 

" London, W. 

" My DEAR Mr. Tancred, 

" I have heard of the dreadful anxiety 
you are in about dearest Mrs. Tancred, and 
must send you a line to tell you how deeply, 
deeply I simpathize with you ! " (The first i in 
simpathize had looked to the writer a little odd, 
but not enough so to cause alteration of the 
vowel.) " If you could let me know how she 
gets over it, I should be so, so grateful to you ! 
I hope you will not think me impertinent for 
writing to you, but I am so miserable about 
you both ! 

" Your deeply grieved 


"P.S. — I should not tell you at such a 
moment, only that I cannot bear you to hear from 
any one else, that Lord Bletchley has persuaded 
me to marry him. I did not at all wish to at 
first — you know that I always rather hated the 
idea of marrying — but I cannot stay on here, as 
complic^ations have arisen." 

Miss Ransome had meant to have run that 
doubtful k to earth in the dictionary, but in the 
ardour of composition had forgotten this necessary 
precaution. " Of course, Edward will understand 
that Colonel Slammer has been making love to 


me ! " At this point the writer had laid down her 
pen, and rested her pensive head upon a left hand 
from which some very fine diamonds shot their 
reconciling sparkle, " It seems brutal to tell him 
just at this moment, of all others, but I know that 
it is the truest kindness. He is so good-hearted 
that he will feel the blow less while he is sooth- 
ing poor dear Camilla's last moments." She 
glanced at her betrothal ring. "I know I shall 
be glad by-and-by ; but it does seem rather dearly 
bought just now." With a sigh she resumed 
her pen — 

" We are both rather alone in the world, and 
I am sure he will be kind to me. We shall be 
much more like father and daughter than husband 
and wife." 

Camilla laid down the letter. "It seems 
rather soon," she said ; and that was the only 
comment which the remarriage of their connection 
with their prot^gie ever evoked between husband 
and wife. 

At the time it was being uttered Bonnybell 
was sitting on a sofa in the Slammer drawing- 
room beside her fianci. A barrier of sofa- 
cushions had — accidentally as it appeared to Tom 
— risen between them. Across, but unable to 
level them, the lover leaned and beamed. 

" And you are quite sure that you never were 
in love with any one else before ? " 

" Never ! " 

" Not with Toby Aylmer ? " 

« How likely ! " 

2 D 


"Nor" — a hesitation and an altered tone — 
" nor — with — Edward Tancred ? " 

" If you are going to ask me ridiculous and 
improper questions, I shall be obliged to give up 
talking to you." 



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